Sunday, October 03, 2010

Labels and Stereotypes - There's a Party Over Here!

The last post, which continued our examination of workplace labels and stereotypes, dealt with the accusation against some Blacks that we are not team players. As promised, the next racist stereotype and label we will discuss is…

It Looks/Sounds like You’re Having a Party in Here

A Black person can be writing on a flip chart, sitting with handouts in their lap, have papers spread across the floor, and clearly be conversing about work, HOWEVER, if they are in a meeting with one or more other African Americans, someone White will inevitably say…

It looks or sounds like you’re having a party in here!

Apparently, if you’re in the office and you hear Black folks talking about budgets, conferences, proposals, reports, project specifics, work-related travel, etc., just go ahead and break out the latest CD by Drake. ‘Cause the Negroes are fixin’ to party up in hiz-ere.

Conversely, when white workers are standing in the hallway or in someone’s office hootin’ and hollering about True Blood…it’s all about business. It’s just teambuilding and the fostering of a collegial environment! Evidently, the longer Whites stand around chit-chatting and gossiping, the stronger the company becomes.

I’ll never forget being in a meeting, in my office (my nerve!), with an African American coworker. The door was open. My coworker was seated by the door. She was asking for my help on a budget for a conference. We were talking about what costs I would need, where she could track down the figures, what vendors could give her estimates, etc. She’d never had to pull together a budget before and I was walking her through the process.

I see a White coworker walking to my office door every 5 minutes and turning around with this pissed expression every time she saw this coworker still seated in my office. My meeting with this person lasted about 30 minutes. So, when it’s done, the White coworker comes back and asks me if I could keep my “personal conversations” relegated to my lunch hour because she was repeatedly trying to get my help.

Yes, she did.

If there was a caption over my head, it would have read, “Heifer, if you don’t get your butt up out of my office…” Instead, I simply informed my coworker that I was “discussing project work and I’m pretty sure you heard the conversation every time you came to my door.” What was her response?

“Oh, but you were laughing.”

So, I looked at her like she was crazy and asked what that meant. Her response?

“Well, it just seemed like you were having such a good time.”

So, I asked, “So, because I get along with my coworkers and my coworkers get along with me and we can work in a way that we have a pleasant and friendly environment, you think we’re having a personal conversation and aren’t doing work—even though you can hear the conversation?” She didn’t respond.

So, I asked “Well, what did you want?” And, she said, “It’s not important. I already had what I was looking for.” Yes, she did. After all that, and accusing me of having a good time, when I was actually working, which is a knock against my reputation, the “woman” found what she misplaced! Instead of being angry that she lost something in her own office, she wanted to pervert the issue into me being unavailable to help her and to use it as an opportunity to say that I was engaged in a long, non-work-related chit-chat/party.

This is the way the workplace game goes. This racist let her preconceived ideas dictate a false reality, which this same person later shared with my supervisor. I barely had much interaction with this person, but she just had to share, based on this one encounter, that I have too many chit-chats in my office. Of course, I was accused of being too conversational. “This is work.” “You need to focus.” All based on the word of one White woman making an accusation. I asked who else was accusing me of this behavior. Blank face…no response. I showed my supervisor the budget notes from the meeting…didn’t matter. A White woman had spoken and my supervisor had picked a side and she wasn’t going to change her mind.

This is a harsh reality for many Black workers. Congregating with other colored people will often bring all sorts of negative connotations that can hamper your career and impact your performance reviews.

The next label and stereotype we will examine is…

You’re “Unapproachable”



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