A Few Tips on Surviving a Racially Charged Workplace

Since my presence made you so uncomfortable, my features made you assume I was not qualified or worthy of being here, that I’m just the diversity pick. Alas, your insecurities and your prejudices are not my doing. There are a range of frailties in this brave new world, and you just have to learn to live with it.

So I was thinking how I can make lemonades from this experience…figure out what’s the silver lining from this horrible time. I’ve started to think about all the advice I got and the nonsense I often came across from people steeped in their own oppression. I’m never one to walk too far away from who I am, but to survive I thought I needed to be someone else, to tone myself down and to live as if I was less. Instead I decided: Be yourself, be authentic; and become even smarter by always learning and examining your experiences.

I’d love to say that I’ve forgiven and put this all behind me, that I’m on the path to wholesome reverie. It’s not my job to fix anyone’s racism. I have zero ****s for you, these are the only smiles I got for you, hehe:

I desperately want to help others so I thought about creating a tips sheet. Here are my initial thoughts…


The Interview: Leveling the Playing Field

  1. To get in..pray, and pray real hard. No matter your spirituality, religion, non-religion and/or atheists.
  2. Isolate your challenge areas for an interview
  3. Got the job great! Celebrate and remember thank your support system. Send emails and keep your network up to date and vested.
  4. Write a note to yourself that you can take a look back at to make sure you remember who you are.
  5. Create a realistic budget, save and invest. Have an exit plan. Be flexible enough and know that you’ll need to tweak as things develop.
  6. Know your weaknesses and develop a plan to work on them. Now go and make a great first impression.
  7. Know your strengths and develop a plan for how to demonstrate your skills.
  8. Always think the next step, keep your ambition alive. You’ve won just by showing up. Feel good about being counted.
  9. Be prepared, things might not end up as promised, and everything might not be how it seems.
  10. Get a good feel of the landscape, formal and informal hierarchy, organizational culture, politics, jargon and minority treatment structure.

On the Job: The best defense is a good offense

  1. Be proactive with identifying mentors and cultivating a sponsor.
  2. Know the organization, and know your rights. Learn the company policies on fair and equitable treatment, sexual harassment and
  3. Learn the difference between a compliment and a dig. Microaggressions are real, and “not being a good fit” is usually a euphemism for some biased intent.
  4. There as an incident? Yes, she just said that..or he just did that. I know you’re mad, so seek safety first, talk to someone.
  5. When you are able to, take contemporaneous notes and email them to yourself. Know if and how you’ve broken any rules and seek damage control.
  6. There’s always room for development and growth. Do training in cross-cultural, multi-cultural environment, signs of bullying and harassment; mental-health and well-being.
  7. If you’re labelled “overconfident”, “bossy”, “aggressive”…don’t internalize it. The problem isn’t you. Trust that you are enough!
  8. You’re not crazy, too sensitive or overreacting. Harassment, racism, sexism, bias, bullying and “othering” are all wrong. We know it when we feel it.
  9. Decide if speaking up is worth it. Think carefully, seek advocates and be brave. Determine the rules of engagement and paths for redress if you want to fight.
  10. It’s OK if you don’t want to fight, you show courage by acknowledging your fears and by honoring your state. Be authentic.

The Exit: Do No harm

  1. Know when to leave. Seek advice, and trust your intuition/instinct/gut. Maintain a good back up plan and savings.
  2. Know yourself. Forgive yourself. Don’t isolate yourself, protect your self-esteem and keep friends and family close.
  3. Remember when in danger, the human instinct it to “Fight, Flee …or Freeze”.
  4. Take notes and keep an independent record preferably by sending to your private email.
  5. Retain everything even if you don’t think it would be evidence. Seek a legal consultation even if you don’t seriously want to pursue anything.
  6. If you decide not to challenge the organization, feel free to move on.
  7. Visualize the future you desire, get motivated. Strategize.
  8. Take the time and get the help you need to recover
  9. Restore contact when you are ready, with a view of the future
  10. Laugh. Smile. Find your peace. Be optimistic. Know that YOU matter!

Know that your presence was enough to push the needle…thank you for your representation.

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