234 Tristan’s Tip : Stay Engaged with Company Statements

On the sixty-eighth installment of Tristan’s Tips, our amazing host Tristan Layfield talks about why you need to keep an eye on statements made (or not made) by your current employers and any potential employer you are considering. As Tristan says, “It’s necessary for our sanity and well-being that we position ourselves in spaces where we are welcomed, appreciated, and allowed to show up as our true selves so we can thrive.” 

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Tristan: Hey Living Corporate, It’s Tristan of Layfield Resume Consulting, and I’m back to bring you another career tip. This week isn’t like all of the other weeks that I’ve come to you. We are in the middle of what many are calling riots but I prefer to call an uprising, rebellion, or revolt due to police brutality that has largely gone ignored and unpunished due to systemic racism and white supremacy. This has proven to be a call to action for many companies to step up and assert their stance on the matter. Some, like Ben and Jerry’s, have provided statements that show direct unwavering support. Others not so much. I want to talk about why you need to keep an eye on statements made (or not made) by your current employers and any potential employer you are considering.

Over the last couple of years, a cornerstone and conversation starter in both the job search and corporate environments has been company culture. With large corporations trying to shift their narratives and the public’s opinion of them, this has largely been a tiring and frustrating dance for job seekers who are trying to understand how they may fit within a certain company. Our current social and political climate has required many companies to begin speaking out about their stance on police brutality, racism, systemic oppression, and white privilege. Many are rising to the occasion but many more companies and organizations are falling short. I believe the statement these companies and organizations are giving is a very good indicator of their current culture. Companies and organizations who are truly dedicated to the work of reforming an unjust system will have already put processes in place to build teams that can respond to this with the fervent passion and action that the moment calls for. The companies and organizations who simply created a diversity and inclusion statement because they felt pressured or see this work as trendy have provided tone-deaf statements that lack substance, action, and passion.

Need an example of a great statement? Look to Ben & Jerry’s. For me, they set the standard of how a company responds when they truly values Black lives and the contributions of Black people within their company because they leave no room for doubt and ambiguity. They understand that the perceived risk of losing customers, members, partnerships, etc. does not outweigh the countless lives lost at the hands of an unjust system. I want to break down the key components:

First and foremost, they called a spade a spade instead of skirting around the issue. They directly stated the words Black Lives Matter, police brutality, racism, and white supremacy. Personally, I’m side eyeing any statement that misses those 4 key words and phrases. If a company or organization can’t directly name their support, call out the oppressive system, and clearly state the things that led up to this moment they are likely to only be providing lip service with their Diversity and Inclusion or Social Justice initiatives.

Second, they named many of our fall brothers and sisters including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Travyon Martin, and Michael Brown. They even took it all the way back to Emmet Till and provided some classy shade by including Martin Luther King Jr. as another victim of inhumane police brutality. Companies who are giving those generic statements know that saying these names directly can cause quite a stir so they avoid it similarly to how they avoid the words I previously talked about.

Third, they say Black people instead of African American and they were sure to capitalize the B. You always, and I mean always, capitalize the B in Black when you are speaking about Black people. Also, I’m really apprehensive about people or organizations who state they are dedicated to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work but are hesitant to say Black when referencing us.

The Fourth and final point, they didn’t rely solely on their words but they tied them to action. They called for political, systemic, and structural changes. Words are cool but action is better. If the company or organization isn’t actively changing policies and implementing new ones, breaking partnerships with law enforcement, or donating to organizations doing the work I question how invested they are in the fight for true justice.

Many companies or organizations have not made a statement or made a generic statement that only expresses vague solidarity with the Black community and eludes the specific of what is wrong, what needs to change, or in what ways they will do anything about it. If you are currently at one of those companies and feel you are in a position to speak up, do so in whatever way you feel is appropriate. If you don’t feel you can speak up, I’d encourage you to start reflecting on if this is a place you’d want to be and, honestly, if they even deserve to have you as part of their team. If you are ready to jump ship, there are plenty of Black resume writers and career coaches that are here to support you in this endeavor.

While this time is truly a trying for each of us, if anything it has given us much clearer indicators to evaluate if companies and organizations are truly as dedicated to the work as they say they are or if they are only dedicated when they feel the pressure or because they believe it’s trendy. It’s necessary for our sanity and well-being that we position ourselves in space where are welcomed, appreciated, and allowed to show up as our true selves so we can thrive.

This tip was brought to you by Tristan of Layfield Resume Consulting. Check us out on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @LayfieldResume or connect with me, Tristan Layfield, on LinkedIn.

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