Wednesday, August 4, 2010

We Should Take Care of Each Other

A couple of weeks back an ex co-coworker called to ask me if she could interview me for her Organizational Behavior class. Say what, now? “You think I have a behavioral problem?” That wasn’t the case. We discussed the importance and influence of corporate culture and the effect on employee performance and job satisfaction. It was a good conversation, but what really stuck was when she said, “I felt like I failed you. As black women, I feel we should take care of each other.” A couple weeks later I’m repeating the same words to a young woman who worked at my organization.

I didn’t repeat those exact words, but it’s how I felt. She had been interning at the company for nearly a year and she had taken a sheep like following to a coworker who was bad news, a show pony, and I knew she would end up “burned.” The relationship wasn’t mutually beneficial she thought she would get mentorship, work experience and a stellar recommendation from this person who only had personal gain in mind. “She’s a big girl,” I thought “she’ll find out sooner or later or maybe not.” On her last day she opened up about the relationship and how badly it made her feel and I realized that I fudged up.

Granted the situation was new to me; do I bad mouth my coworker to an intern? I don’t know this girl. How can I call her a follower? Am I really qualified to give someone career advice? Besides she didn’t ask me Sugar Honey Iced Tea. Besides, this girl’s “Sheppard” was a sista too.
So did I have a responsibility to this young sista, to teach her the game or at least make an effort? In my opinion, yes. It’s hard for people of color in the workplace, especially women of color and I know what it feels like to feel “lost” at work especially fresh out of school. I did appreciate the occasional ‘words of wisdom’ from a seasoned coworker and I did feel the need for mentorship. Besides “other people” do it all the time that’s why “they” are making gains in the workplace and in economic status even social status and “we” still fighting each other.

Black women, black people, have lost the sense of “we” and “us.” That may be a reason we are so “angry” some of us are more “angry” than others, but we are angry; we most definitely have the right to be though. But, we also feel alone sometimes which makes us feel more defensive and aggressive. If we knew we had an army of “Bad Misses” behind us to support us and not take we would get a lot more accomplished and be a lot happier.

That day, she broke down and we had a heart to heart. I gave her the business and she ended up saying, “I wished I would have worked with you more.” “Most people don’t realize how lucky they are to be around me,” I said. “True.” Next time I’ll let them know.