On today’s episode of the Living Corporate podcast, Zach and Ade read and respond to two listener letters. They provide their unique perspectives and offer up helpful advice on how to best advocate for yourself while encouraging others to do the same.
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Zach: What’s up, y’all? It’s Zach.
Ade: And it’s Ade.
Zach: And you know what? You’re listening to Living Corporate, and, you know, today–
Zach: Yerp. And today–[both laughing] we have listener letters. So for those who don’t know, we encourage, at the end of every episode, to send us some listener letters. You can submit them through Instagram DMs, through Twitter DMs, through our email, through our website Contact Us section. Just hit us up. Ask us things and we will provide our perspective. We are not certified coaches. We are just–
Ade: Or psychologists.
Zach: Or psychologists.
Ade: Or counselors.
Zach: Or counselors.
Ade: Let’s just put all of our disclaimers out there. All of this is just from our perspectives, and we love y’all, we care about you, and we want to make sure that you succeed. However, you know, this is not a binding contract. Cool. Let’s move forward.
Zach: Yep, that’s right. We’re just two black folks out here trying to help other people of color, you know what I’m saying? That’s all we’re trying to do. So this is what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna read a couple of these listener letters. We’ll talk about ’em, wax poetic, and then we’ll wrap it up. Ade, what else do you think we need to add to this?
Ade: Sit back, relax, grab a glass of water if you’re listening, and sip with us. Take a sip. Oh, and also, just side-note – this is a thing that my mother has been making me do recently – drink some honey lemon ginger tea or honey ginger lemon or ginger lemon honey tea, whatever combination works for you, to just, like, soothe your throat while you listen.
Zach: You got the–you got the recipe? Or–
Ade: I mean, I’m not gonna be responsible for my mother’s recipe getting out there. Look on the Internet. There’s a whole bunch of different recipes.
Zach: Okay, so just Google it basically. So they won’t be drinking your mom’s recipe, but that combination of tea would be good. Okay, I just wanted to make sure we [?]. All right, cool. Okay. Well, look, our first listener net–listener letter–
Ade: Listener netter.
Zach: Listener netter, which is a new type of listener letter, is coming from Raquel, and the subject is–
Ade: Hi, Raquel.
Zach: What’s going on, Raquel? Also your phone’s making noises in the background.
Ade: Wasn’t me.
Ade: Wasn’t me.
Zach: Wasn’t you? Was it me? Might have been me.
Zach: No. Oh, it probably was me.
Ade: It was totally you.
Zach: Yep, it was.
Ade: Narrator: It was actually me.
Zach: My bad. [?] [laughs] First listener letter is coming from Raquel. Hi, Raquel. Subject line is “I need a promotion.” Here we go. “Hey, guys. End-of-the-year performance reviews are coming up, and I’m really anxious about getting promoted. I’ve had some serious wins this year and positive feedback from my boss, and I’ve been bringing up my desire to get promoted. I’m not sure if it’s enough though. Performance reviews start in about six weeks. What advice would you give in my final stretch? Thanks.” Hm.
Ade: Do you want to start, or should I go?
Zach: You go.
Ade: Okay. First of all, Raquel, thank you for writing in. This is a pretty big one. I think everyone in general is invested in the course of their careers, and feeling as though your review is coming up and you’re not quite sure that you can advocate for yourself is a huge deal. So that said, I will give you the advice that my senior, the senior associate on my project, gave me when I first started. It was that you write down all of your wins. Like, in the next few weeks, start taking stock of all of the things that you did really well, all of the pats on the back you got, all of the shout-outs, all of the wins, and then also write down all of the not-so-great situations. All of the sit-down conversations that you had to have, all of the after-action items that you had to take down, so that you have all of the knowledge necessary to advocate for yourself once it’s time for those reviews, because it’s very, very easy for you to personally recall all of the times that you didn’t do so well more than the times when you killed it, like you had a three-hour turnaround time for some huge deliverable or you owned that client meeting and all of the clients left looking at you like you were the second coming of the messiah. Just really take stock of all of the amazing things that you did, because 1. it makes you more confident in these conversations, ’cause you can walk into those meetings like, “Yeah, I am that person.” Of course the term I’m using here is not “person,” but whatever. But also it’s very, very difficult for managers to miss the million, million, million things that you did that were amazing because they’re overseeing a whole bunch of people, and so it’s easy for some of your big wins to fall between the cracks, and that big win falling between the cracks can mean the difference between a $2,000 bonus and a $10,000 bonus. Maybe not that significant, but you get what I’m saying. What do you think, Zach?
Zach: Yeah. So, you know, my experience in getting promoted is all about having more than just one advocate in those rooms, right? So one, to your–everything you said I 100% agree. You have to make sure that you’re writing down and that you make it easy for people to advocate for you, and the way that you do that is what you just said. So writing down your wins, writing down your growth, like, documenting those things in something that is easy to read, like a one-pager or a couple of PowerPoint slides that you can quickly just send out and folks can, you know, review and speak to or reference. That’s gonna make it easy. And then also, you know, you used the language “my final stretch.” It’s really important–and, like, again, recognizing where you are, but any time you’re thinking about getting promoted or you know that you’re looking to get promoted or you’re looking for a huge raise, you’re looking for–you’re looking to get something out of the–you’re looking to really progress, you want to–really want to treat your entire performance almost like a campaign run, right? So, like, mapping it out, thinking about who are the folks that you want to connect with, what are the things that you want to accomplish, and then like we’ve been saying, making sure that you document those things and that you equip the people who you want to be your promoters, your advocates in those rooms, in those spaces, give them plenty of heads-up, right? So you said you have six weeks. I would, like, look across, think about what you’ve done this past year, think about the people that you’ve worked with and say, “Hey, I’m looking to get promoted this year. This is my goal.” And, like, don’t be afraid, right? It’s a goal, and ask, “Would you be willing to support me?” If so, if they say yes–depending on how you want to frame it, “If so, would you please review this here?” Or “Would you be willing to write something for me?” Right? So every company has something different. Some companies have kind of, like, in-time reviews. Other people have, like, informal kind of, like, write-ups and positive notes. Other people–like, there’s various things, right, that you can–there are various ways you can document, but it’s about gathering those points of evidence, and then that way when it’s time for your review and people are looking for your–you’re basically building a case for yourself, there’s a variety of things people can pull from. That’s really important. So, like, you said you have six weeks. I would really, like, kind of put your nose to the grindstone, reach out to the people that you know that you’ve had a positive impact on, have a conversation with them, make it easy for them to advocate for you, and then, again, kind of depending on who it is–if you know who’s gonna be the person who’s gonna, like, explicitly gonna be talking about, “Hey, this is why this person should get promoted,” have a conversation with them as well. Let them know what you’re doing. Give them all of that evidence, and then make sure that y’all have a conversation about what it looks like for you to be properly spoken about and advocated for.
Ade: That’s not to say that this process is easy, especially, Raquel, if you are feminine-of-center, it’s not–you’re not often taught how to advocate for yourself and how to really push for what you want. It’s something that I’m personally learning how to do, and I think that there’s no better place to do that than at work, because it’s work, so yes, it bleeds into the rest of your life and et cetera, et cetera, but it’s really just a microcosm of the greater world around you, and what it means to advocate at work is also what it means to advocate for yourself in your personal lives, in your friendships, in your relationships, and so treat this as a proving ground for–it’s not just about work here, right? I would treat this as, “Okay, if I’m able to really push for what I want here, whether or not I get it”–and yes, you will, girl–“Whether or not I get it, I know that I’ve had the experience of what it means to advocate for myself period, regardless of where I go.” So once you get this one out of the way, every successive conversation that you have that might be difficult, that might feel uncomfortable, cannot possibly be more difficult than the very first one. So either way, we got your back. Thank you for writing in.
Ade: Did you have anything else you wanted to say, Zach, before I cut this entire conversation off?
Ade: [laughing] I realize that that’s what I did, my bad.
Zach: No, it’s good. I feel like my contribution was the “yerp.” I’m good.
Ade: [laughs] I can’t stand you.
Zach: [laughs] Cool. Yeah, so all–godspeed to Raquel. Definitely excited for you. Hopefully you can give us an update and let us know how it goes.
Ade: Right. Drinks on you next time around.
Zach: Drinks on you next time, ’cause you ballin’. Maybe one day, you know what I’m saying, we can all work together, you know what I’m saying?
Ade: Big ballin’, shot callin’.
Zach: Right. Right, right. So cool, cool, cool. We have another one here.
Zach: Ade, you want to take this one?
Ade: Most definitely. All right, so this one, the subject says “GET ME OUT OF HERE!” In caps, so I really had to give it the respect that it was due. So Xavier writes in saying, “Hey, y’all. I am so close to just walking out of work and never coming back it’s not even funny.” Oh, my. “I seriously need a mental heatlh break, just go on a trip and never come back. JK.” He really said that. “JK, I come back. My problem is that even though we have “unlimited PTO” at work, it feels like we’re discouraged from taking PTO.” Hm. “My co-worker went on a trip a few months back, and she’s had to deal with jokes about her work ethic.” What?! “She’s been made to work really hectic schedules and just overall painted like less of a team player. I don’t want to deal with this while at my job. I can’t keep living like this. Please help. Frustrated and about to burn out, Xavier.” [exhales] Ow.
Zach: Oh, man. Xavier.
Ade: You want to get started with this one, Zach?
Zach: X. Yes. [laughs]
Ade: Professor X.
Zach: X! Ah, X. Nah, I mean, I’ve definitely been there, and I feel like I sadly–like, I’m closer to being there than other places, so this really resonates with me. It’s tough when you don’t feel like you can–you can take off work, right? But at the same time, I mean, when you start getting to the point where it’s like, “Man, I’m about to quit,” or “Man, I just gotta get up out of here,” then I think that’s when it comes to making sure that you have, like, really transparent conversations, right, with your boss, like, “Hey, I recognize we’re in a really busy time, I recognize what’s going on. I am–I am burnt out. I am exhausted. I am–” Just be honest, right? There’s ways to phrase it in a way that does not come across like you’re whining or that you’re being fragile or dramatic, and these are insecurities that I deal with all of the time, ’cause, like, I’m always trying not to be the diva. And I’ll say that. I’ll be like, “I’m not trying to be a diva. I apologize for bringing this up.” Like, there have been things that I’ve had to raise at work in my career that were perfectly right to raise, but I don’t like being the center of that attention, right? But you gotta think about this. Xavier, he’s saying–he’s saying that he’s, like, thinking about not coming back, and he says JK, but, I mean, like, he’s not really–he’s not really kidding. Like, he wrote this, right? Like, he took the time, wrote it, and sent it, so there’s a certain level of seriousness to this. So I would say have a conversation with your boss, be transparent about where you’re–why you’re feeling this way, and then move forward and take the time off, right? If your job provides you unlimited PTO, and you have a–and you’re about to burn out, then take it. I think the only thing is that make sure that whatever work that you need to get done or that you won’t be tackling during that time, make sure that you’re working with your boss, with your team, with whoever to make sure that those things are covered, right? That’s the challenge. So, like, with your co-worker who they were saying, like, people question their work ethic and everything, it’s like, some of that is cultural. Like, that might just be, like, just the culture of that space, but also if you’re really proactive and you say, “Hey, look, for the next three days I’m gonna be off, ’cause I need to recharge, and these are the things that are gonna be happening in these three days.” And again, like, not–I would not give them a day heads-up. I would tell them, like, you know, a couple weeks in advance and say, “Hey, look, these are the tasks. Can–who–” Like, make it very simple. Like, “Hey, these are the things that need to get done. This is the way that you’re gonna have get these things done,” and that way people can just kind of take it, drive it, and then close it. That way when you come back you’re not staring down the barrel of a bunch of work that didn’t get done. Your team isn’t having to kind of pick up the–isn’t having to, like, deal with the impacts of stuff, just the dependencies and anything like that that you–the things that they were depending on you for. You’re able just to–you’re able to kind of, like, have a clean transition, but if you do that and you’re transparent with your supervisor, hey, man, you gotta take the time off and take care of yourself. Ade, what do you think?
Ade: Agreed. I think my very first point was that succession plan that you were talking about earlier, creating just an Excel spreadsheet and listening the discrete tasks that are yours, that you own, and who is equipped on your team to deal with them, and then having a come-to-Jesus moment with your–with your boss, because I think of it as a sign of poor management that you would even have to justify you leaving and taking a mental health break. The reason I say that is because if you’re experiencing this, like, heavy workload and this hectic schedule and you feel like you’re about to burn out, then somebody has noticed. Somebody has noticed. I can say from my own personal experience, like, when it’s incredibly hectic at work, my director comes up and is like, “All right, we’re taking everybody. Stop what you’re doing. We’re going for a coffee break. We’re just gonna walk and go outside and experience the sunshine on our faces,” or my lead goes, “Okay, everyone has to leave at 6:00 p.m. tonight. Nobody needs to be in this building.” Like, they’re being proactive about caring for you as a person as much as they care for you as a co-worker or as a resource at work, because everybody knows that you are less valuable to them as an institution if you’re honestly not on top of your game, and there’s no way that you can be on top of your game when you are a ball of nerves and anxiety. That’s one. Two, I am genuinely concerned, actually, about your co-worker having to deal with being treated poorly. So it’s one thing to leave your team in the lurch and, you know, not have adequate support for all of your–all of the times in your workstream, or your co-workers feeling like you left them holding the bag on several items, but this sounds like she was just punished for–and it might just be your own current perspective based off of how you’re feeling currently–but it sounds like she’s being punished for having the audacity to leave. To, like, just go and take a mental health break, and I would look into–I know you say you love your job, but I would look into alternate employment, simply because–
Ade: I am so serious.
Zach: [laughing] I know. I know you’re not joking.
Ade: I am so serious, because the same way that they find it comfortable to alienate someone just for doing what they say to do–like, a lot of these companies will go, “Yeah, we absolutely–we give you unlimited PTO because we care about you and we want to make sure that you’re okay and your life continues, just because–” Yada yada yada yada yada yada. Okay, whatever, but if the truth of the matter is that when you do in fact take this time off and when you do in fact take advantage of all of the perks associated with your job you get treated a type of way for it, that doesn’t sit well with me personally. It feels like you’re being set up, and again, this may not be the truth of the matter. I’m just reading, inferring from what I see here, but it does feel like, or it does sound like, there is no winning, that you are either going to be working your butt off until you have, like, a sincere breakdown, or you take breaks when and forever long you need them and you’re punished for it, and that just in general doesn’t sit well with me personally. That seems like a bad practice. It seems retaliatory, that you would take a break and then be given all of these hectic schedules upon your arrival. So yeah, I think in general I advocate that you come up to your boss with full honesty, like Zach said, and a succession plan, and by succession plan I mean literally take every single thing that you do over the course of a week and list them, and also list the people who are able to take on those tasks, ’cause you generally–I don’t know about everywhere else, but I know that I don’t work in a complete silo so that if I ever have to take a break from work, there are people who know and understand enough of what I do that they’re able to take–to pick up the slack in my absence, and it’s just–for those of you out there who own your own companies or are senior management in companies, it is such a toxic work culture to create to say that people aren’t able to take breaks when they need to, that people are punished for just living their lives. Like, people’s lives don’t start and end at work, and it’s unfair and it’s toxic and it’s abusive to decide that your employee’s whole world should revolve around work, and when it doesn’t you punish them for it? That’s jacked up.
Zach: Nah, I agree, and I was laughing about you saying, you know, “I would really advise you to seek somewhere else to work,” ’cause it kind of reminds me of The Read where people will be like, “Dump him.”
Zach: “Dump him” is, like, the main thing they’ll say.
Ade: But also, if you’ve ever–if you notice, like, people who write into The Read–and this is a complete sidebar, but I have felt this on my spirit for a while–people who write into The Read or the Relationships subreddit generally are, like, at the end of their rope. People don’t just go seek advice from strangers for funsies. They’re like, “Okay, I really can’t talk to anybody else in my life about this. I need some kind of help,” and it’s usually just, like, a wild situation, and everybody needs to, like, scream at them, “Please leave. Please.”
Zach: No, that’s 100%. You’re not wrong. It’s just funny, but ultimately, because of the capitalist society that we live in, right, like, life is becoming increasingly about work. There’s an unspoken but ever increasing expectation that you’re just gonna work, and work and work and work and work, your mental, physical, emotional, spiritual wellness be damned, right?
Ade: Right, and you are validated only through your work, and I am here to tell you that that is not it, friends. That’s not the truth of the matter. It doesn’t have to be the truth of the matter. Please take breaks.
Zach: Yeah. No, no doubt. So Xavier, I definitely hope that this helps. I pray that you don’t burn yourself out, give yourself the break, and it’s crazy because–what’s really interesting rather is if you don’t give yourself the break, your body will give itself a break eventually, right? Like, you’ll pass out, you’ll get sick, and, like, you know, that vacation, like, you’ll get a different type of vacation. So make sure you–just make sure you take care of yourself.
Ade: There are no beaches in hospital beds. I’ll tell you that right now.
Zach: That’s true. [laughs] Oh, goodness. Okay. Well, cool. So we have–you know, we have a few. We try to do two or three listener letters, you know, per each of these episodes. We’re not trying to inundate y’all, but we do have more, so we’ll be back with more listener letters in another episode.
Ade: Yep, and thank you to everyone who wrote in. We hoped this helped. Again, please seek out the advice or help of people who are even more professionaler than we are.
Zach: Yes, professionaler. Who are betterer than us.
Ade: Who are betterer at us than this, who are able to physically be there for you in a way that we may not be able to. We love y’all. Stay safe. Stay lifted. You have anything else you want to add, Zach? Do you have, like, a Favorite Things? I know I sprung this one on you, but you sprung it on me the–well, a few weeks ago, so.
Zach: Nope, nope, fair enough. So my Favorite Thing this week–I do have a Favorite Thing, so that’s gonna be crazy socks. So crazy socks are–and when I say crazy socks, I really just mean, like, socks with unique designs. So socks with unique designs, like, they’ve been kind of, like, in style, like, they’ve been normalized now, but I still really enjoy them. So I’m not gonna say the website I procure my socks from, but I’ve been really excited ’cause I recently just got some socks that are, like, pink with, like, little black and white puppy dogs on ’em.
Ade: [scoffs] That sounds really cute actually. I was gonna make fun of you, but…
Zach: Aw, look at you.
Ade: I mean, I’m still gonna make fun of you, but they still sound cute.
Zach: Okay. Well, I appreciate that. I respect that. So then I got some, like, lime green ones with, like, some red t-rexes on ’em, but they’re, like, cartoony kind of t-rexes. So I love socks. I think it’s an easy way to show a little bit of style. People laugh–so I know on my current project people laugh because–like, I’m the only person on the project that wears a blazer, but, like, from a style perspective I think blazers are cool, and so I’m gonna rock a blazer. Like, no doubt, and so–and I also have, like, a little pocket square, and then I have my crazy socks. And it’s not like I’m wearing, like, high–what’s the word, high-waters? I’m not flooding, so it’s not like you’re gonna just see my socks, but, like, if people go, “Hey, like, what’s the drip looking like?” I’ma be like, “Ayo.” I’ll pull up the pant leg one time and let you know, like, it’s dripping. I’m dripping.
Ade: “What’s the drip looking like.”
Zach: [laughs] When my boss–if my boss ever walks up and he says, “Hey, Zach, what’s the drip looking like?” I’ll be like–
Ade: Why in the world–see…
Zach: No one ever–no one ever at my job would ever say “What’s the drip looking like?” No one would say that.
Ade: Yeah, I just–I need–anybody from Zach’s job, if y’all are listening to this, I encourage y’all to write in and please tell me the accuracy of this man’s statements, not because I think this man is lying, but, like, I just want a first-hand account of his dad jokes at work.
Zach: But I have taught my–I have taught my supervisor the concept of drip, and it’s funny, like–
Ade: On that note, we’re gonna roll out of here. That’s gonna be–that’s gonna be it for us on today.
Zach: [laughs] Oh, you’re not gonna–you don’t have a Favorite Thing?
Ade: [whispering] Damn, I really thought I was gonna escape.
Zach: [laughs] What’s your Favorite Thing?
Ade: So my Favorite Thing currently is Victory Lap by Nipsey Hussle. If you’ve heard of Nipsey Hussle–or if you haven’t, Nipsey Hussle was a rapper and an entrepreneur who was murdered recently, and because it was essentially his final project–I don’t know if there’s anything in his vault that his family will eventually decide to release–it really was a spectacular album. It was nominated for Grammy of the Year, I think. If I recall correctly. If not, then whoops, my bad. But yeah, my Favorite Thing. I haven’t been able to stop listening to it, and I encourage you all, if you are a fan of rap, of hip-hop, of storytelling in general, even if it’s not a medium you’ve ever enjoyed, it’s a worthwhile album to listen to just because it’s such an incredible story. That’s it. That’s all I got.
Zach: That’s dope. Well, cool. I guess we’re gonna get up on out of here. Thank y’all for listening to the Living Corporate podcast.
Ade: Yeah, thanks for listening.
Zach: Make sure you follow us on Instagram @LivingCorporate or Twitter @LivingCorp_Pod. Ade’s already talked to you about submitting listener letters, but I’m just gonna say it one more time. If you want to submit a listener letter, make sure you get at us at Instagram DMs, Twitter DMs, our email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ade: We’re also on Al Gore’s Internet at living-corporate.com, because Australia refuses to let us be great.
Zach: That’s true, but we’re also at livingcorporate.co with no dash. We own all of the domains really except for livingcorporate.com. We have livingcorporate.net, .org, you know what I’m saying? We have ’em all. We just don’t have livingcorporate.com.
Ade: Which is wild.
Zach: Which is wild. We have everything else but that. Anyway, appreciate y’all. We’ll talk to you all soon. This has been Zach.
Ade: And this has been Ade.