On the nineteenth installment of The Link Up with Latesha, our incredible host Latesha Byrd, founder of Byrd Career Consulting, explains why it’s important for us to understand when it is time to grow or go at work. This episode was inspired by an article posted on Zora titled “When Black Women Go From Office Pet to Office Threat” by Erika Stallings. Latesha delves into the piece and relates some of her invaluable experience dealing with micro-aggressions and the like at work.
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Latesha: Hello, hello. Welcome to The Link Up with Latesha. I am so happy to get back on this podcast and just share some updates with you guys. I definitely want to know how your new year is going. So Happy New Year again. If you’re just now tuning in, it is 2020, a wonderful new year, a new decade. It is going to be a year of abundance, of just restoring faith, a year of moving forward, making progress on our goals. I just celebrated my birthday this past weekend and I am really excited about that I’m entering a new decade in my age. I’m not gonna say what my age is. [laughs] But with my birthday just passing, I’ve really been in a mind state of elimination and refinement, and that is speaking to my relationships, you know, my business, my mental, my thoughts, you know, the things that I’m thinking. So eliminating those bad thoughts, refining my thoughts. Same with my relationships and circles, those that I do spend time with, and relationships, thoughts, business, you know, everything. And in terms of what’s going on with the business, I am going to be teaching, or hosting, a masterclass on LinkedIn that is coming up within the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned for that. Hopefully we’re connected on social media, so you will hear all about it. It’ll be a jam-packed one and a half- to two-hour session on literally how to build your profile from scratch. So, you know, no matter if you have been using LinkedIn since its inception 10 years ago or if you are just now getting on LinkedIn, whether your skill level is from a 1 to, you know, 9 or 10, this masterclass is going to teach you some new things you may not have known about LinkedIn. So I’ll be talking about how to build your network–excuse me, build your profile from scratch, but also how to work your profile and how to make it work for you. So from navigating the job board to networking to branding yourself, joining groups and organizations online. Who do you need to be connecting with and how do you connect with them on LinkedIn? What are the positive things that you can add to your profile just to make you stand out so that you are showcasing your best self online? So more to come on that. A lot of exciting things. I definitely will be releasing a ton of new content over the next, you know, month, just adding value, adding value, adding value. I want to spread as much knowledge and add as much insight as I can about career development, and so that is what my goal is for the early part of 2020, content, content, content, connecting further with my audience, and just really being there for you guys. So if you have any ideas, let me know. So enough about me rambling here. I wanted to talk about this article that came out on Zora. If you guys are not familiar with Zora, Zora is a new platform on Medium that is specifically for women of color. And, I mean, they have articles from, you know, film and arts and music to personal health to mental health, and actually a lot of great career reads. There was one that came out this past week, and I encourage you all to look at it. Most definitely women of color, but even our allies that listen so you all can read the experience that we go through. I don’t know not one black woman that has experience that has not experienced this. Either they turned it around or it went kind of downhill from there. [laughs] So the article that I’m speaking about, the topic is called “When Black Women Go From Office Pet to Office Threat.” Again, the title–’cause I just want to let that sink in. It’s crazy. As soon as I saw this–I saw it on Twitter, and as soon as I saw the title, you know, I was like, “O-M-G. Yes, yes, yes, and yes.” So the topic is “When Black Women Go From Office Pet to Office Threat,” okay? The subtitle: “First your boss loves you, then they dislike you. Here’s how black women can manage the icy transition.” Have y’all experienced that? Oh, my goodness. You start a new job, you’re pumped, you know? Maybe you’re just getting started in your career in your early 20s, your first corporate job, and they love you. And when I say they, [laughs]–I’m not just talking about this random “they” like DJ Khaled, but they, I’m speaking specifically to your white counterparts and colleagues and your boss. They love you, and then all of a sudden the love is gone and they are threatened by you. So let’s talk about that. This article, you know, the writer of this article, she gives her own, you know, story about how she started a job as an attorney [eight?] years ago, and she was one of four black women in an entry-level class of [60?] associates. First year was great, but at the end of the first year and as she reflected on her career journey thus far she realized that there was some type of disconnect. She was well-liked by leadership, but she wasn’t really getting respect in order to gain the right work that she needed to set her apart and set her up for success, and so when she went to talk to her management and leadership about it, about her frustration, she was told to be patient, and she ended up leaving or looking for a new position about another year later. But when she put in, you know, her notice, and when she was, you know, letting them know she was leaving, they were upset. Well, they said there was a general attitude that she was ungrateful and that she was wrong to complain about her lack of advancement. Ladies, have y’all experienced this? Allies, have you experienced this or seen a colleague experience this before? This is something that I am extremely passionate about, because as a coach I help my clients figure out what they want to do in terms of moving forward in their career, what their next best step should be, and getting them to really understand how their skills, how their talents, how their purposes, how the things that they love to do translates into the job market so they can find not only careers but also companies and environments that will allow them to grow and develop and be nurtured, and that is of top, top-top-top priority, getting with the right organization, getting with leadership–when I say getting with leadership, I mean making sure that you are with a company where leadership will invest in your professional development. But going back to this term, this term “moving from pet to threat.” This was actually an academic study that was published in 2019, and it says a pet is beloved, cared for, and often treated in a child-like fashion. The pet status for new professional employees suggests that new professional employees are not equal to their masters, that their masters know what is best for them if only they’d behave appropriately. So you go from feeling like you are, you know, loved–and I want to talk about that. You go from feeling that you’re loved to feeling like you are a threat, and sometimes it’s so clear as day when that line–you just kind of see that line being crossed or, like, that shift, and, you know, I most definitely remember one that happened to me in corporate. Often times we are experiencing micro-aggressions, we are experiencing punishments for challenging, you know, some of the issues that we experience in the workplace. So going back to this study, it was actually done or completed by, of course, black women in academia. This term was coined in 2013, and she actually made it officially with the study backing up this racist behavior. And in terms of that study, she says that there were 35 black women from across the country at different stages. She kept hearing the same issues. Women were in the early phase of their career and they would talk about being treated as a minor player, then the women who were mid-career were constantly feeling like they were coming up on barriers, even though they had already established high levels of performance. And then one day she just said, “Yeah, it seems like you go from pet to threat,” and that’s where the idea came from. So this data was pulled by a group of black women in academia, but understand that this, you know, has been seen in every single industry. So going back to my clients that I’ve been coaching, I think it’s important for us to understand when it is time to grow or go. When it’s time to grow or go. I’ve had clients that have been at their workplace for so many years, maybe five years, almost ten years, [and] they’ve never had a performance review, they’ve never been promoted, they’ve never gotten a raise, but when they first started they were promised all of these things. “Oh, you’ll be in leadership in no time. We’re gonna give you, you know, all of these exciting projects to work on.” And something happens in-between where we become super pumped where we were super pumped, we were excited, and then all of a sudden we start to lose our confidence, we start to question our abilities, because we’re denied the same leadership opportunites that our colleagues are. Or for those of us who have proven ourselves–and I hate using that term, but when we have shown up–and y’all know what I mean when I say “shown up.” Like, we are doing the damn thing. We are crushing our work assignments, and we speak too loudly or too boldly about it, next thing you know they’re saying, “Hey, we noticed you seemed a little…” [laughs] “We noticed you seemed a little aggressive in the meeting. You might want to just calm down just a little bit,” you know? Y’all know how that whole thing goes. But I’ve had conversations with women that have said, “Man, I feel like I have just been beaten to the ground to the point where I’m starting to question my own value, I’m starting to question my own work, I’m starting to question if this is the career for me.” I want you all to know that this is not–you are not an anomaly. This is an experience that happens across multiple industries, multiple careers, multiple ages, and what I would love to just emphasize today is that you have to take this power and control back in your hands and in your life. So knowing it’s time to grow or go. How? How do you know when it’s time to grow or go? First thing is, before you even get with an organization–let’s say you are… it’s 2020, right? Let’s say maybe you are in the process of interviewing, you’re applying, you’re considering new opportunities. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of you interviewing these companies as much as they are interviewing you. Know what your career goals are. Know the type of employee. Know what management style works for you best, whether you–maybe you’re in a management position. Know what type of management style works for you best, but then also if you are not entry-level, you know, maybe not managing yet, know what type of management style works best for you in terms of that relationship with your manager so that when you’re interviewing, you should be interviewing not just with the recruiter or with the hiring manager, you should have the opportunity to meet the group that you’ll be working with. You should have the opportunity to meet your boss and the key players in the organization that are directly responsible for your growth trajectory at the company. If they do not put these folks in the schedule, request that you meet with them, because you will want to know who you’re going to be working with. Do they actually care about leadership development? Is that something that they prioritize for their employees? It is perfectly okay to ask that you meet with these individuals, because I’ve seen where my clients have had wonderful interviews, they were promised all of these things, and then they start and realize, “Oh, my gosh. My boss does not know how to be an effective leader. This is going to hold me back,” [laughs] because they maybe did not meet with them in the process. They met with their boss’s boss, but they did not meet with that person directly. When it comes to interviewing, make sure you have questions that you’re asking about understanding the culture of the team, understanding the culture of the organization, [but] specifically the team though, because even at some of these large companies–so I am based in Charlotte. Y’all know this is Bank Town, so we have Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Ally… I could go on and on with the banks here, but Wells Fargo is a huge organization. I know people that love their jobs there. I know people that hate their jobs there. [laughs] And I have my clients that will say, “Oh, I was talking to someone at Wells. They hate it. I don’t want to work there,” and I’ll tell them, “Look, it could be–there’s, like, 20,000 different companies within the organization.” [laughs] It depends on the group, department, you know, your clients, whoever you would be working with. It just varies. It varies, so that’s why it’s important to focus on the team culture first. Well, company culture for sure because that trickles down into the organization’s teams, but team culture is important as well. So questions to ask – ask questions about the development. Ask them, “How is professional development managed here for employees? How is feedback given?” You know? “What is that performance review process like?” “What are the growth opportunities in this role?” And the other thing I would challenge you all here to think about is–I know I’m saying grow or go, and what I mean by that is you need to know when it’s time to get up out of there. You have to know when it’s time to get up out of there. If you’ve been with the organization and you want to grow, yet that organization does not want to grow you–you know, like the article said, some of the women felt like they were up against the wall–you may have to get out just to get that new growth opportunity that you’re looking for, but I want you all to understand what growth looks like for you. Growth doesn’t always mean that you will move from being a sole contributor to managing a team of five to ten to twenty. It could be simply a change in responsibility. It could be a larger book of business. But in terms of that growth, it depends on what it is that you want. I would encourage you to think about what type of growth you want to see in your career. And of course you can get feedback from mentors and others in the industry, but just keep your eyes on your own vision and hold the company accountable to actually helping you grow. The other thing that’s important with growing or going is finding allies and advocates, and I believe the article definitely talks about that. It’s good to find allies. It’s good to find advocates, those who will speak on your behalf, those at the organization that will make sure that you are being stretched, making sure that you are receiving, you know, the same proper treatment that your colleagues are, especially if you have raised your hand and you’ve said, “Hey, I want to do some new work. I want to take on some new projects. I want to take on some new things,” or if you look around and see your colleagues are excelling in these other areas but you haven’t even had the opportunity to add value there–having allies, actually having advocates, will help to get in front of these types of challenges. So there is a previous podcast episode that I did on managing relationships in the workplace, and I specifically talk about the difference between mentors and advocates, so go back and listen. It was a really insightful one. I actually think that was the podcast–the last one I did, I think that was the last one that I did, so check that one out. So I don’t want to go into too much detail on that. And the other thing that the article mentioned is to basically find opportunities, even outside of your workplace, where you can be a leader, where you can add value, where you can contribute. So finding your own safe spaces, whether it’s relationships or places, to find affirmations for achievements and contributions. I think the main thing there is don’t let your workplace tell you what your worth is. Your worth, your career, does not define you, and so find spaces–I encourage my clients to find organizations, professional industry organizations, that will allow them to give back, but will also allow them to build a solid network, will allow them to get on the board, do a passion project, volunteer, add value elsewhere so that you have others that you can connect with, because what happens with this whole “pet to threat” ideology is that we tend to feel isolated, we tend to feel alone and that no one understands our struggle and what we’re going through, but I want you all to know that you’re not alone. You’re not alone. This has been something that has been a coined term and studied and something that many of us have been going through or have gone through. So that does not define you. Don’t leave it up to your employer to tell you what you’re worth or what you’re not worth. You define that for yourself, and you do have to find spaces where you are constantly being affirmed and you are able to affirm yourself. So this was a very, you know, ooh, like, kind of a deep message today, but after I read this article it was just compelled on my heart to talk about it. I would love to do, like, an online form or support group, you know, talking more about this article and just hearing more about your experiences and your stories, so maybe let’s see if we can try to get that thing hooked up. But I hope that this was enjoyable for you and you got some good clarity. In 2020, guys, we are not going to be a pet to threat for long. We are going to take the control, the power, back, and we’re going to find these organizations and teams that truly value our value and want us to grow. So that’s all I have for today. I hope you all have a wonderful day and weekend and week, whenever you’re listening to this, and we’ll be talking soon. Peace.