I am not a fan of workplace discussions centered on politics, and given the divisive nature of today’s political climate, I do everything I can to avoid the topic at work. Don’t ask. Don’t tell.
That said, some colleagues completely miss the memo . . .
“You see what I’m wearing? Yes, I voted for Donald Trump . . . key chain carrying member and all”.
For our second one-to-one meeting my new program leader intentionally wore his red polo shirt. He smiled as he tugged his collar and made a hand gesture to mimic holding a set of keys.
He continued the CLEARLY one-sided convo, making comments about Trump not being “a likable guy” and his gift for saying the wrong thing.
“I really liked Trump’s work on prison reform. I wanted you to know who I was”.
I said nothing. A predictable perspective. Did my “leader” actually believe prison reform would be important to me OR was this a passive-aggressive, race-based, offensive dig? Or both?
Our scheduled one-to-one sessions—there had been two—were never about building a strong work relationship. This guy wanted to see me squirm and to know he was more than my new boss. He felt himself superior to me and wanted me to know it.
During our first session he shared more unsolicited personal history, detailing his inner city school experience with an attempt to relate it to me. My [assumed] “hard shell” was clearly the bi-product of a tough upbringing, right?
A product of desegregation efforts in his community, my new “leader” thought I would understand his teen experience of being bused across town to a high school that required security and apparently, tough skin.
His assumption was wrong. I was raised in the suburbs and attended school in my neighborhood. My childhood memories are filled with kick-ball games in our cup-de-sac, Slip n’ Slide fun in our backyard and evening trips to the local Dairy Bar for ice cream.
I didn’t bother to share any of this with him. My upbringing was none of his business and his intentions for our meeting were clear. I knew EXACTLY who he was.
No surprise our work relationship never evolved beyond that point.
This was the same leader who purchased MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN shirts for team members when Trump was elected and who frequently debated, while working, the ‘virtues’ of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
No question, my ability to be successful on his team, and to ever truly be “seen” was no longer a realistic goal.
Working While Black is a real thing. If you are:
- Black and/or the target of this behavior – what would you do in this situation?
- White and/or an observer of this behavior – what would you do in response to what you’ve seen?
WHAT WOULD AN ALLY DO / #WWAAD