On the twenty-seventh entry of The Link Up with Latesha, our incredible host Latesha Byrd, founder of Byrd Career Consulting, provides some guidance on how you can really navigate the workplace politics and the antics and the performative allyship right now. Check the show notes to put your name on the waiting list for Latesha’s Career Chasers Members Club, and don’t forget to read her piece on Medium!
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Check out Latesha’s Medium article titled “Working While Black In the Midst of Crisis & Injustice.”
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Latesha: Hey, everyone. Welcome to another episode of The Link Up with Latesha. Y’all… why is it still 2020? I mean, we aren’t even halfway through the year, but it feels like 2025. I feel like I’ve aged, you know, quite a few years within the last month. On today’s episode, I wanted to provide and offer just some guidance on how you can really navigate the workplace politics and the antics and the performative allyship right now. This is an emotional time, I think, for many of us. 2020 has been a wild ride, y’all, and if you’ve been listening to, you know, The Link Up for a while, then you know that I’m a career coach, and so a part of my work is every day to have these conversations around what my clients are experiencing in the workplace, and when I tell you that these folks have lost their minds… [laughs] Like, people are really losing it out here. I think it’s a combination of, you know, folks just kind of going crazy from staying at home and not traveling and not really having a life anymore to just being downright crazy, and as you all know, we are dealing with a lot of racism. Racism is not a new thing, right? It’s been around for hundreds, hundreds of years, but it’s definitely amplified just a lot more in terms of the conversations that are being brought up in the workplace now just due to all of the police brutality that has been on display for the world to see. I’m seeing a lot of content, I’m seeing a lot of messaging, for companies, leaders, for allies, on what they can do to kind of support the cause right now, but you know where I think we’re really missing the mark? I don’t see any content for us. Now, when I say us, I mean Black people, the ones that are really hurting right now and that are getting the short end of the stick. We don’t have seats at the table to lead discussions and to talk about really dismantling the changes that need to take place within companies. We’re not the ones. No, [but] we are being asked though to talk about “What does it feel like to be Black in America,” you know? Like, “What? Why? Why would I want to talk about that with y’all?” You know? Like, that’s the first thing that comes to mind when my clients are telling me that. They don’t give us a seat at the table. I mean, we can’t even see the table, you know? And I think about the glass ceiling, right, and how this term called “glass ceiling” means that, you know, women really aren’t able to, you know, advance into leadership. I honestly think that, for Black women, I don’t even know if there’s a glass ceiling. I feel like we can’t even see through the ceiling, you know what I’m saying? I don’t know what that type of ceiling is, but listen, I don’t think it’s a glass ceiling. [laughs] And it’s to the point where I think our emotions are at an all-time high, and yet we are still expected to show up and do our job and, you know, talk about what it’s like being Black in America and to be that Black spokesperson for the Black delegates all over the world. Like, there is so much pressure on us, and it’s frustrating for me, it’s angering for me as a career coach, because I see and I hear what my clients are going through and all of the people that have reached out to me over the last week or so about, you know, really how to have these conversations and, you know, the fear of, “Well, if I don’t have this conversation, you know, my employer is going to, you know, basically put a mark on my record or think that I am being difficult because I don’t want to talk or I’m, you know, being aggressive if I speak up.” You know? It’s like we can’t win. So I’m frustrated, y’all. I love us. I love being Black. I love that we are so talented and ambitious and strong, but we are tired of being strong. Like, for real, for real. So I have some tips for you. I’m gonna go ahead and get into it. Before I do that, just a couple of announcements I want to share – and I have not shared this publicly just yet, but I have a membership club called Career Chasers Member’s Club. It is for Black women that are really seeking community, guidance and support as we are on this path of career greatness, chasing career greatness. Get it? [laughs] Yeah? No? Okay. Career Chasers, that’s the name. Career Chasers Member’s Club. So if you are looking for that community of like-minded ambitious women that are typically, you know, super smart but have lost, you know, confidence along the way, and if you’re ready to invest in yourself and take control over your career, I want to welcome you to be a part of this community. We’re 100 members strong, and my goal is to grow and grow and grow this thing. Excited to share that one of our members, Elise, just landed a role at Netflix in their aero-engineering team. So really excited for her. A lot of our members are getting interviews. They are really putting themselves out there with networking, because listen, y’all. These goals don’t stop, and I’m gonna get off my soapbox in a minute, but these goals don’t stop, you know, despite what’s going on, and just remember that you being able to really step into your most highest and truest and best self professionally, that is resistance, because you are building and creating a path for someone else, right? Someone else is going to be able to look at you and say, “You know what? If she can do it, I can do it too.” So more details to come on that. I’ll drop the link in the show notes if you want to be on the wait list so you’ll be the first to know when membership is opening up. So let’s go ahead and get into what I want to talk about today. Here’s the thing: I don’t think that we should continue to sit in spaces that discount our experiences without letting our voices be heard. I am tired, and I think we are all tired, and I just tweeted this earlier, but I said “Companies, your Black employees are ready to throw in the tile.” The TILE. [laughs] Y’all know what I’m talking about if you watch The Verses and Tyrese. Y’all know he can’t spell, so he said he’s ready to throw in the tile. Anyways, we are tired, but listen, here’s a positive thing I think that’s going on is that more ears are now open to the conversation about systemic oppression and racism, but I think that there is still a lot–and I mean, y’all know that there is a lot of work that we have to do, but I don’t think we should have to censor our identities anymore. I think that now the conversation and the eyes are on us, so you can use that to your advantage, but I also don’t want you all to feel pressured if you don’t feel like your company has provided a safe space for you to be fully transparent about how you are feeling. Like, let me just say that, but what I do want to say is that, you know, I do think there is some genuine care and concern right now. So I do encourage you to express, like, how you’re feeling about everything that’s going on. It is not going to be an easy conversation. And what I’m realizing is that it seems like a lot of our white colleagues are making it harder, you know, I think in terms of race and racism. This is something that we typically talk about with each other all of the time, you know? But I’m seeing that our white colleagues are really struggling with even how to have the conversation. Like, they don’t even want to say the word race or racism, you know? Or police brutality. You know, years ago Black Lives Matter was very controversial. So saying all that to say I want you to trust your intuition and do what you think you need to do to really just kind of make it through this time. If you need to take some time off, like, please do that. Like, step away from the work, because the work will always be there, you know? I’m hoping that you don’t have to take PTO. Maybe your company offers wellness days or you can take a sick day, because honestly when you think about health, it’s not just physical health. It’s mental health too. Like, take some time and step away if you feel overwhelmed right now–and I know [for] me personally it’s been an emotional rollercoaster. I have been feeling overwhelmed. I can’t imagine having to go into a 9-to-5 every day and still perform and be expected to, like I said, be a speaker for the Black delegation, so if you need to, take some time away. I want you to do that, y’all. Just start taking a Monday here, a Friday here. Take a whole week if you can. Like, really step away, because you probably aren’t as productive as you maybe once were before. So let me go ahead and get into some more of these tips. So like I said, be open to having the conversation when the topic does come up. Don’t say–you know, if they ask, like, how you’re feeling, don’t say, “Oh, I’m good. What are you talking about? Everything is great.” Like, you know, you don’t have to do that. You don’t even have to say, “You know, I’m just having a bad day,” or “I’m just having an off day.” Like, I would actually say, “You know what? With all of the things going on in the world, in the U.S. with police brutality and seeing, you know, people of my race, you know, being killed for the world to see, that is really affecting me right now. I’m a bit traumatized. You know, I’m not feeling my best right now due to the things that are going on, and so I do want to let you know that.” Like, I don’t think that we should stray away from being ourselves in these conversations for fear of making someone else feel uncomfortable, y’all get what I’m saying? Because we, as Black employees, we are typically uncomfortable at work a lot of–you know, most of the day. We just are used to working through that discomfort. So don’t ever feel like you can’t express how you feel for fear of making someone else feel uncomfortable. Just want to be clear on that. Let them know that you are hurt and you’re sad and you’re angry, things are not easy for you right now, but you are going to do the best that you can. And I think you should definitely share why you are upset. Now, there are things that I do think that you should not have to really speak to, like talking about what it means to be Black in America. I just–me personally, y’all, I just don’t think that that is a productive conversation, because it’s a little bit–it’s infuriating, you know? We live this life. [laughs] We live this life. We can’t turn our Blackness off, right? We walk outside and we’re bound to have to deal with a micro-aggression at the store, at the gas station, with the neighbor, you know? Racism is always happening to us, so having to relive and tell that trauma to someone else, that just does not sit well with me, especially if you’re being asked to talk about that, like I said, in a space that is not conducive to actually healing, you get what I’m saying? It’s like you’re putting your wounds on display to be picked at, but nobody is coming and putting a bandage, you know, on that wound. So I think that you can talk about how you’re feeling, but you don’t need to go on and on and on and on about the experience of actually being Black. I hope that that makes sense in terms of the difference there. Another tip is to set boundaries. First of all, y’all, don’t allow your co-workers to disrespect you, to say disrespectful things or racist or misogynistic things. I think it’s time for us to start to call it out and really use our voice here. End a conversation if you have to. Check somebody if you have to. If someone says something like, you know, “All lives matter,” or “I don’t understand what these protests are about,” like, I would just kind of counter their biases and say, “Oh, really? Can you tell me more about that? Hm. So do you know what’s actually–like, what’s being protested, and do you know that these protests, like, didn’t start out of thin air?” Y’all know it really–it really depends on, you know, how you feel and if you feel like you can have this conversation and school someone and check someone, you know, in a professional way, but you can also walk away. I just don’t want you to still, like, actually put a cover on how you feel or feel like you can’t, you know, speak up or defend yourself in that moment, and if you have to just end the conversation, then just do that too. But again, we’re not going to just suffer in silence anymore. The next thing is to protect your peace. Protect your calendar if you can. Figure out ways to limit the amount of meetings that you’re taking every day. Make sure that you are actually–I know a lot of us are still working from home. Make sure that you are taking breaks throughout the day. What I did–so I did not eat much last week. I did not sleep much last week. So what I did this week is on Monday I actually put a calendar reminder or break in my day. I put a lunch, an hour lunch break, each and every day between my meetings so I would not skip lunch. The other thing that I did is that I would just put, like, a blocked time on my calendar, meaning “This is a no-meeting time. I don’t want any meetings being booked, I don’t want any consultations. I don’t want anything being booked during those times so I actually can step away.” Also with protecting your peace right now, be mindful of the content that you’re consuming, you know? There is so much content going around with all of these videos resurfacing of police brutality and, you know, just more traumatic things that we have to log on and see every day, so I have to remind myself as well to make sure that I am watching funny videos, you know? I am finding things on Hulu and Netflix that is uplifting, because I’m doing a lot of self-education as well in terms of just the history of, you konw, racism here in America, and it is exhausting, and it is infuriating, and so as much as I am interested and I’m, you know, passionate about this topic and learning more myself, it is also extremely tiring and draining, because I think about all of the things that, you know, our people have endured for generations and generations, so I actually have to remind myself to make sure that I am consuming content that is positive and that is also feeding me up and building me up. So I just want y’all to really take care of yourselves in that regard. Stay off social media if you can. I know that–every day there’s something happening, y’all. It’s really crazy right now. So I feel like if I take a day away from social media I feel like I miss, like, two months, you know what I’m saying? But trust me, that stuff, that content, will always be there, so take your breaks. I want to remind y’all to eat and get your rest. You know, set a bedtime. Set a bedtime. I have been up, y’all, at least last week and even just as we have been going through this pandemic, I was up late, and it’s been even later, but this week I said, “You know what? I need to actually implement a bedtime.” So please get your rest. The last thing I want to say is that you are not there to do the emotional labor of your white colleagues or leaders or console their white guilt, okay? We don’t have to do that, and I think that’s where we really need to draw the line. Like, for instance, if a white colleague is talking to you about what’s going on and they are making it all about them, like, “I just can’t believe this, and I think about my experience as, you know, a woman,” or “I think about my experience as–” You know, they’ll find a way to try to, like, relate, and it’s like, “You don’t understand what discrimination is really really like being a Black person. It is on a totally different level,” right? So they will try to find ways to relate in that regard, or they will try to find ways to apologize about not realizing, you know? “Oh, my gosh. I just can’t even imagine how you feel right now and what you’re going through.” Y’all, just walk away from those conversations. Just end those conversations if you have to. I don’t think that we should have to give an applause or say a thank you for–“You know what? Thank you for putting all of that, projecting that pity on me. I appreciate it.” Like, you don’t have to do that. If they’re like, “Oh, the cops are so mean. Racism is terrible.” Well, you know what? What do you–it’s like, “What do you want me to say?” Like, “How do you actually want me to respond to that?” Like, “Thank you?” It’s like, “We live this. We are living this life every day.” So that’s all I have, y’all. Take care of yourself, be well. We need safe spaces right now. Create safe spaces within your home. Create safe spaces within your friendships and relationships. It’s really healthy to kind of talk about these things and not hold it all in. If you can get a therapist at this time and seek professional help, please do that. I encourage everyone to look at their company’s employee assistance plans or company’s EAPs. So talk to HR about that and see what options are available to you to actually provide some type of support, you know? Because like I said, you have to take care of you, and I just want to make sure that, you know, you all are doing that. The last thing I’ll say is if you feel like you want to see change in your organization, feel free to speak up, you know? Feel free to be a part of those conversations, but you also don’t have to be forced. Like, I don’t want you to feel forced to do that. If you need to opt out of conversations for your own peace, then you can do that as well, but if this is something that you’re passionate about and you feel like you can drive change and make an impact in the workplace, then I encourage you to do that as well. So basically what I’m saying here, y’all, is there is no right way to do this. I think resistance really shows up in different ways for many of us, so figure out your way and know that you just showing up to work is enough. You being Black in America, you know, is enough. So I’m thinking of you all. Definitely engage with Living Corporate on social media. I know Zach and team is really taking all of this in and hearing and listening to the audience right now and just trying to make sure that we are as supportive for you all as possible. So all right, y’all. I will talk to you all soon. Peace.