You’ve met her before – the coworker who makes you cringe at every meeting.
She is the opinionated, loud, and demanding female that everyone tries to avoid. She is always irritated and always busy, but she keeps her job because she gets it done.
She’s rarely the one to get promoted.
Working Black women often get stuck in this persona – leading to the stereotype that we are not corporate material.
This can happen for a variety of reasons – too much stress at home, not enough pay, or even a racist work environment. These stressors can have an unequal burden on Black women, so we typically must try harder to keep them from impacting our careers.
The fact is ladies, life happens.
If you want a successful career, you have to be able to juggle that stress with normal day-to-day work stress. You have to make a conscious effort not to become “that lady”.
Here are some specific examples of the wrong way to handle some standard work scenarios:
THE DEFENSIVE DIVA
“I don’t know why they’re always asking me to do it!”
Perhaps they are asking because it’s your job? Instead of assuming that management and co-workers are trying to take advantage of you, reframe the situation. When someone asks you to do something, it’s likely because they know you are the right person to do it. It’s one of the benefits of being a hard-working woman.
Instead of becoming resentful, be appreciative of their acknowledgement. It may take time for you to be rewarded for all of the extra stuff you do, but you will be – even if not at this particular job.
MS. TOO BUSY TO HELP
“Well, I put it on their desk… I can’t be responsible for babysitting them – I’ve got stuff to do too.”
Wow, really? I suppose everyone else is just there for the fun of it, then?
While it’s entirely understandable that you might be overworked, others may be as well. There is no need to vent your frustration on them.
One way to prevent frustration from taking over is to take a deep breath, then try to think about it from their perspective. Why have they asked you? How can you possibly help them? If you think about their needs, instead of your own, you come out looking like the team player, rather than the complainer who’s out for herself.
BAD KNEES GRANDMA
“Man, I wasn’t going to come in today, my head was hurting so bad…”
If you are like me, you may have had a grandmother who regularly spoke about her aches and pains. My grandmother called hers Arthur (as in arthritis), and I came to remember her by that.
There’s no room for Arthur or any of his friends at work.
If you don’t feel well, it is best to keep that to yourself unless you are announcing the need to go home. If that is the case, follow the appropriate HR policies, and go home.
THE GOLD DIGGER
“When do I get a raise?”
If you ever find yourself thinking about saying this out loud, stop immediately. There isn’t any way to say these six words in this exact order and have it work out okay.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been there, or how qualified you are – it comes across as demanding and greedy if it comes out of your mouth. Not asking the question directly does not mean you shouldn’t ask for more money when appropriate. That’s why we work.
There’s just a better way to do it.
When you are ready to have the discussion about additional pay, let your employer know what’s in it for them. Take the time to show them you are a hard-working employee that plans to stay around.
You will probably get a “we’ll see” – especially if you ask out of the blue, but it lets them know you are thinking about moving up, in a non-threatening way.
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