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Dr. LaWanda Hill (00:09): Hi, y’all, and welcome to The Break Room. Happy Thursday. I know if y’all had the type of week I’ve had, it’s been a long draining week and we’re almost at the end of it. So, that’s a good thing. Welcome to The Break Room. I’m Dr. LaWanda Hill, one of the cohosts of The Break Room, and I’ll let one of the wonderful cohost introduce themselves and then we’ll hop into the content.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (00:38): Hi everybody. Nice to see y’all. Thanks for being here. My name is Dr. Jide Bamishigbin. I’m an assistant professor of psychology at Cal State, Long Beach, and I do research focused on stress and families. So, I’m really excited to be here. Let’s have a great episode.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (00:51): Yes, let’s do it. Okay. So, for those of you who are just now first-time joining, or for those of you who are returners, you’ll know that we’re going to start out every episode by letting you know who we all are. We are a group of mental health professionals. Some of us are psychologists. Some of us are social psychologists. Some of us are psychiatrists, but whatever it is, we gather here at The Break Room to center Black mental health in the workplace. We know that our movement through the workplace looks and feels very different from people who hold different racial, gender, ethnic, sexual identities than us. And so, our job is to always have some space to eliminate that. but not leave you there, but give you something practical to walk away with to help continue to center your mental health in the workplace. So, that is The Break Room, we gather every Thursday at 5:00 PM Pacific Standard Time, 7:00 PM Central Standard Time for about 40 to 50 minutes. We start our sessions off by talking about what is the tea of the week. And because these are the good old United States of America, there’s always some tea.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (01:57): Always.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (01:57): Always some tea. And then we transition into our topic, and tonight’s topic is going to be When Toxicity at Work is Too Toxic. When toxicity and work becomes too toxic. We talked last week about white toxicity specifically, but this week we’re going to talk about more general levels of toxicity and when that becomes too toxic to endure. So, after we have our topic, we invite some Q and A, in fact, we invite you to make some comments or ask questions as we move along so that when we do come to that segment of the show, we can address the questions and or concerns that you have. And then after we finished having some great dialogue about centering Black mental health at work, we then move into our Last Nerve. This is perhaps one of my favorite parts of the show where we give our signals. We started with 60 seconds, but now we do 90. We do 90 seconds where we vent about what is that thing that has gotten on your very Last Nerve at work, and we release it and we wrap up the show. So, that’s how we spend our time together. So, let’s get started. Tonight’s topic, when toxic is too toxic, but before that, let’s talk about the tea. What is this week’s tea? Now y’all, I really try my best not to give energy to things that I feel are ignorant. But I constantly am checking in my privilege to know that like, LaWanda, you are a psychologist. For things that may be just so easily identified to you, it’s not identified to others. So one of the things that I find very ignorant just in of itself is Derrick Jaxn. I don’t like giving people platforms that I don’t feel like deserve platforms, but it is the tea so we got to talk about it. Derrick Jaxn is a classic Black male growing up in a time where people have access to iPhones that give them a space to record themselves. His expertise is questionable. His training is even more questionable.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (04:07): Questionable? That is a very charitable term from you.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (04:09): Wasn’t that generous? That was generous.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (04:13): That was very generous.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (04:13): What would you say, Jide? What would you call it?
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (04:15): At this point? It’s no longer questionable. He has no expertise in this subject that he’s been talking about. But continue, sorry. I just want to pull that up.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (04:24): He has no expertise in the subject that he’s been talking about, and this is a conversation for another day, that’s rooted in so much patriarchy, where men specifically get a platform to tell women, namely, give their advice or their expertise. In this instance, it’s just his advice. It’s not any expertise. It’s not like he’s a marriage and family therapist. It’s not like he’s a clinician. It’s not like he has studied relationship issues or interpersonal dynamics, none of the above, which would classify him to be able to do this work. And yet, he’s done it.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (04:56): He’s built a huge platform.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (04:58): He’s built a huge platform doing this. Telling Black women what they need to do in relationships. Only for it to be discovered that he himself has been cheating on his wife.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (05:12): Multiple times.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (05:14): Multiple times. And I just may save Derrick for The Last Nerve. And I think that specifically, what I want to say, the tea on this that I think is very disheartening is that his wife has been getting a lot more attention because she finally came out and started talking about her response and people have been attacking her appearance and her attire and what she looks like. And she identifies as a Christian. And so, a lot of her explanation of his behavior has been rooted in Christian dogma, that in my opinion excuses his behavior, and it makes her stay stuck in this process of being with him despite his infidelity. And so, it’s unfortunate because I see this happen so much. I am also licensed in our data as a minister, and I see people weaponize spirituality often, and I think he’s done that. He’s weaponized spirituality, he’s used his platform to prey on women and he’s giving advice that he himself is not adhering to because he’s been having multiple affairs. So that’s the tea and it’s annoying. And that’s my opinion on it. What’s yours, Jide? Like, what do you think about that?
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (06:36): You know, I think more than anything, it’s one thing to make your own bad choices that affect you. But he engaged in this behavior and his wife’s getting embarrassed on the internet, and like… you did that. That’s not her fault. That’s your fault. People make bad choices. I just hate when those bad choices impact other people. Right? And even still he’s kind of making jokes about it. Like he posted a reaction video to his reaction video. He was trying to sell his book for like 50% off. It’s just entirely disgusting behavior.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (07:11): Yes, and you know, that’s what makes you a man of character, Jide. To say that it’s one thing for him to make his own choice, but his choices are impacting his wife and it’s embarrassing her. And I’m saying that as a psychologist, I can just predict that that’s causing her some level of distress. And although I think that some of her stuff is ridiculous, it never becomes easy for me, or I never get comfortable laughing at people’s pain.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (07:34): Right.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (07:34): Because I also know when I think about–I know it may seem extreme, but I think about Michael Jackson, we all talk mad, mad junk about Michael Jackson, and yet when he died, we grieved him.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (07:44): Yes.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (07:44): And that’s what we do. That’s what we do. We laugh at people. We laugh at their pain. We laugh at what they go through, and then God forbid they do something terrible to themselves and then all of a sudden we feel bad about it.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (07:55): Right.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (07:55): And I feel like that’s what’s happening to her. I think that she’s being mocked. I think that she’s being laughed at. And honestly, I have a level of empathy for her. I really do.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (08:05): Yes. She’s also a victim.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (08:08): She’s a victim. And the sad part? She doesn’t even know she is.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (08:12): Yes.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (08:12): She doesn’t even know she is yet because of her worldview. So, I’m not going to go too far on that. That’s a little bit about tonight’s topic where we can begin to illuminate, because he certainly has a lot of toxic behavior. So, tonight we’re going to be talking about when does toxic becomes too toxic at work as it relates to your mental health and wellbeing. So, just to give a little bit of a recap. Last week we talked about white toxicity at work. Unfortunately, this week we’ve had another mass shooting. Last week, we talked about the mass shooting that occurred in Atlanta. This week it occurred in Colorado. And we talked about the ways in which the news was spinning this narrative and whitewashing it. It was one manifestation of white toxicity that impacts our mental health, right?
Dr. LaWanda Hill (09:03): Another manifestation of that was gaslighting, when people psychologically abuse you in distort your reality. Which is a lot of what we saw our boy do, Derrick Jaxn, honestly do. He does a lot of gaslighting. He did a lot of mansplaining, which would be equivalent to whitewashing. And then the white niceness. That is a level of toxicity. So white toxicity in of itself harms us on the job at work by just the mere virtue of the fact that we are Black people. Our racial identity is something we don’t get away from. It’s always very visible. It’s always very present. It’s very different than, say, an ability status that may be invisible. Our racial identity is there and it meets us in the room. So that white toxicity, some of those manifestations we talked about last week, like white niceness, like gaslighting, like whitewashing, is one layer.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (09:59): So, now we’re going to talk about beyond white toxicity. The workplace in of itself can be toxic.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (10:05): Yes.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (10:05): So, the workplace in of itself being toxic, and then you take that and then you compound it by white toxicity and you got yourself a perfect recipe of when toxic has become too toxic.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (10:18): Yes.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (10:18): We want to pause tonight, name some of those things, identify some of those things so, that we can realize when it’s toxic, too toxic. Because for Black folks, we are vulnerable just because of our racial identity. We, by and large, live in an anti-Black society, and that is that. That doesn’t turn off when we go to work unless we’re just really moving through predominantly Black or all Black spaces.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (10:41): Yes.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (10:42): So with that level of white toxicity on top of just other toxic environments, I mean, toxic things in the workplace, toxic can become too toxic quick. So when does that occur? So if you can pop us off today on some of the toxic elements at work, what are some of the indicators that our workplace is toxic?
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (11:03): Absolutely. Thank you for that great introduction. That was amazing, but absolutely. Workplaces oftentimes can be very toxic and it’s important for you to be able to identify it. So, that’s what we’re going to talk about. How do you know you’re in a toxic workspace? Or how do you know it’s become too toxic for you? But before we get into that, I want to point out a few things. There is no such thing as a perfect job. There is no job that you’re going to be 100% happy at every single day. That doesn’t exist. So just because you’re not at your maximum happiness does not make a place toxic. Just because you don’t get along with your boss does not necessarily make a place toxic. At the same time, just because you’re having a good experience at a workplace does not mean that the place is not toxic for maybe somebody else, and maybe even you and you don’t even realize it. So, just things to keep in mind. Because we’ve talked about this, toxic is a word that might be a little overused in certain contexts.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (12:07): A little or a lot?
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (12:07): Okay. A lot overused. Thank you, but let’s keep it real.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (12:09): Do we make everything toxic?
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (12:13): Everything doesn’t need to be toxic. Everything isn’t toxic, but right now we’re going to talk about what toxic is. And also, with the acknowledgement that we actually care about all of your health and your mental health, and we want you to be well and we want you to be happy. We want you to thrive. But we know that everybody is not in a space to leave a job. Most people are not in a space of just picking up and leaving a job whenever they can. If a space is too toxic for you and you do have the means to do that, be my guest. But if not, let’s talk about ways to cope with it. So, let’s talk about it. How do you know your workplace is too toxic?
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (12:52): Number one, there are some blaring signs to know your workplace is toxic. Are you dexperiencing workplace discrimination or harassment on the basis of your gender, your sex, your race, your age, or sexual orientation? That’s a surefire sign the place is toxic. Because those experiences really impact us. They impact our self-worth. They impact how we move at work. Imagine being at a workplace where you’re triggered all the time. Where your body is activated the whole time. That’s not healthy for you. That’s really bad for your health. So, if you’re being harassed or discriminated or you see other people being harassed or discriminated at work, that’s a surefire sign you’re in a toxic workplace.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (13:32): Can we hang out there for a second? Beause I feel like that’s good. I think that that’s definitely a telltale sign. And I feel like sometimes people don’t know when they are being gaslit, or they know that they may gaslight themselves or their environment gaslights them to say, “Was that really discrimination? Based on gender, based on race, was that harassment? So, I wonder if we can break down some specific examples of what that discrimination could look like or what it has looked like, or what harassment can look like on the job that lets you know, because your body keeps the score and we talked about that last week, where your body is being activated so often because of these different incidents of harassment and discrimination. But we don’t have the language for it, or we second guess ourselves for it. So, how do we know we’re being discriminated against and how do we know what we’re being harassed by? What constitutes that?
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (14:27): So, I’d always say that your experience matters. If you feel like it, there’s a good chance it’s happening. There’s a good chance it’s happening. We’re not oftentimes just picking up on these things out of nowhere. But harassment and discrimination are two different things. So, we’ll just take a little second to discriminate between these things, right? Discrimination at work means that you’re not being moved up or you’re not receiving the same opportunities based on these characteristics, such as race, gender, sex. And harassment means people are bothering you, harassing you at work, based on whatever these characteristics are. So, how do you know? Well, are you uncomfortable when your boss makes certain jokes around you?
Dr. LaWanda Hill (15:12): That’s good. Because you’ll feel it in your body.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (15:15): Do you feel it? Or do you see everybody around you moving up and you’re not moving up? Although you know you contribute to the company just as much.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (15:23): Are you not being invited to meetings where decisions are being made or things are being discussed?
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (15:28): Right. Are you not being invited to happy hours after work? Are they leaving you out? I mean, are they having happy hours in a space that you’re not even able to attend? Because if you have kids, I got to go home to my kids. But they’re having happy hours, they’re getting closer, they’re building these relationships and you’re left out. Is the boss going golfing every Saturday with only the men in the office and none of the women in the office?
Dr. LaWanda Hill (15:56): Or only the people who are white in the office or not people of colour?
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (15:59): Oftentimes, only white men, only the straight, white, rich men.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (16:03): Correct.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (16:03): Those are the only people who go golfing in these spaces. So, those are signs. Those are signs of harassment and discrimination. Absolutely.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (16:10): So, that’s an indicator of toxic. So, we’re going to talk about more, but I think it’s important to really paint the picture of, okay, so I’m Black at work and I’m experiencing white toxicity. And not only am I experiencing white toxicity, but I’m also experiencing discrimination. I’m being left out of meetings. I’m being left out of decisions. I’m not being invited to these happy hours.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (16:34): Or not being promoted.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (16:35): I’m not being promoted. Or these events that you’re having doesn’t take into consideration that I also have a family and I’m also being harassed. I am being targeted by my peers. My tone in which I speak is being policed. Every time I say something, there was an incident, there’s an issue. I’m being publicly challenged. That will be some level of harassment. So, you’ve got that base level of white toxicity, gaslighting, whitewashing, white niceness.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (17:06): Defensiveness.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (17:06): Defensiveness. Oh, my God. Defensiveness we could talk for days. Next level. So, imagine y’all, this is the toxic bottle. We want to know when toxic gets too toxic. So, we start off with this white toxicity because that’s inherent. Then we move up to discrimination, racism. So, what else fills this bottle, lets us know when toxic has become too toxic?
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (17:30): All right. Another way to know, a really good way, that your workplace is toxic is if you’re experiencing burnout as it relates to work. So, burnout is a term that has been applied to lots of contexts, but it’s originally from the research on what it means to be at work and how work affects you.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (17:53): I didn’t know that.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (17:53): So, people will say like, “I’m burned. Like, I don’t have it.” That comes from this context. So, burnout means emotional exhaustion and depletion due to ongoing stress. And just because you’re tired doesn’t necessarily mean you’re burnt out. So that’s another thing. Tired–and I want to be clear that it still matters if you’re tired, if you’re exhausted, it still matters–doesn’t necessarily mean burnout. Burnout has three components. So burnout, one emotional exhaustion. Absolutely. So, if you’re feeling tired all the time, if your energy is depleted, you just don’t have it at work, absolutely. That is one sign of burnout. Number two, are you feeling cynical? Are you feeling hostile? At work, on your way to work, are you driving to work like, “Oh, my God, I just don’t want to do this“. Like, you’re gripping the wheel so tight your knuckles are white. Right? Because you’re so stressed out. Anytime you think about work, you just have negative feelings, negative effects. That’s another sign. Number three, reduced efficacy. So, what that means is you’re not running at your optimal level. And that can happen in multiple aspects of your life. It definitely will happen at work if you’re experiencing burnout at work, but it can impact you anywhere. I’m not the best parent I could be because I’m so burnt out. I’m not the best partner I can be. I’m not the best friend I could be. I just come home and I just… I can’t even do the dishes. I can’t take out the trash because I just don’t have it.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (19:25): Yes. Because I think what you’re getting at when you’re talking about burnt out, to translate it, because I feel like as academics—well, you much more of an academic than me, I feel like I’m just out here saying I’m an academic because I work in academia where you are the true academic. I recognize that sometimes we can use these terms and they’re so readily available in our vocabulary, but it doesn’t translate to the lay person often.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (19:48): Yes.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (19:48): So, I feel the need to break burnout down further. I love those three components.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (19:56): For sure.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (19:56): I feel like what the core of burnout is is understanding that we all have limitations, that our body, as we talked about last week, keeps the score. And so, when we are constantly in a stress environment and our body releases that cortisol, that stress hormone, because of discrimination, say because of harassment, because of white toxicity, that we’re constantly being activated. We reach a capacity, and that capacity means that we no longer have energy. The exhaustion. We no longer have gratitude or a pasture of wanting to engage. So we have some cynicism. We have negative affect. We have some hostility, and we’re depleted because we’re being overloaded, and it goes back to my metaphor of we have so much toxins that we’re holding because of the work environment specifically that we reached a place of burnout. And I think it’s important to name that. And that’s very different from being tired because burnout, I think, is a state–correct me if I’m wrong, Jide, but it’s like a chronic space that we hang out in. Like, where is the peak? And tiredness can subside with sleep and rest and after a weekend. Burnout is much more substantial and much more significant, and that is because the chances are high that we’re in a toxic environment.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (21:23): Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And burnout can come from a whole bunch of things. We’ll talk about in a second. But what causes burnout? We’ll talk about that. But there’s a lot of research showing that burnout in and of itself is bad, but it’s related to a host of poor health outcomes for you. So, people who experience burnout are at increased risk of depression. They’re at increased risk of anxiety. They’re at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Because that hostility is not good for you. Those feelings are not good for you. And they really affect your heart.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (21:59): Lord, help me.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (21:59): It’s true. Those negative feelings, you can’t hold onto those. They’re just not good for us.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (22:07): That’s the word.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (22:07): They’re just not good for us. And even burnout impacts how long you will live. If you’re experiencing chronic burnout over a long period of time, it’s very possible that you could die earlier. There’s a lot of research showing that you’re likely to die earlier. So, burnout can affect you. Once again, you don’t want to be sitting in the car on the way to work on the train just like, you know, just this the whole time. It’s just not here for you.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (22:37): And I guess sometimes there are going to be those phases.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (22:40): Right.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (22:40): I guess that there’s going to be those phases of life or just at the job. Maybe you’re going through a transition or there’s adjustment or you’re understaffed, where you may have that sentiment. But I think as it relates to when toxic becomes too toxic, it’s like, is this pervasive?
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (22:57): Right.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (22:57): Do you feel this all the time? All the time. Do you feel hostile all the time? Do you feel depleted all the time? Now we’re dealing with much more than something other than that situation or circumstantial, and it’s probably actually burnout.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (23:12): Exactly. Because once again, like we stated, no job is perfect. There’s going to be times where I got to work on the weekend.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (23:18): Right.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (23:24): So I’d say that the harassment, discrimination and burnout are the strongest signs that your workplace is toxic.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (23:31): Okay.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (23:31): But there are other signs that can kind of let you know if your workplace might be toxic. It may be only to you and these are things that you realize affect you a little more, but there are other signs. So, let’s talk about those. You can experience role conflict at work. So, role conflict, conflict between different roles that you may have. So, for example, you may be a parent and you may have a job. And sometimes those things will conflict with each other. Do you have a boss who was understanding of that? Do you have coworkers who are able to understand, you know what, I do have to pick up my kids at three, no matter what, right? Because that’s what time school gets out.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (24:15): Right.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (24:16): That can reduce levels of role conflict for you, if you have that boss, but if you’re in a space that’s like, “We don’t care about anything that’s happening in your life. We don’t care about nothing else. You work here from X hour to X hour.” That will definitely be a sign that you may be in a place that is toxic for you. If you’re feeling conflict between your roles and you don’t feel that support. Next there’s role ambiguity. So, role ambiguity, you don’t really know what you’re supposed to be doing at your job. You’re at your job, you got hired. The happiest you were was when they called you to say you got the job. But now you’re here and you’re looking around like, “Oh, my God. What am I doing? What are the expectations for me? What am I supposed to do? Like, who do I report to? Who was under me?” That really causes a lot of stress and may be a sign that you’re in a toxic work environment. In particular, this is something that Black people in the workplace experience a lot, nd it’s actually a way that toxic white bosses push Black people out, because–I’ll tell you something, and you probably know this just as well as I do. When a boss wants a white person to move up in a company, there is nothing that will stop that happening.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (25:38): They will move heaven and earth. They will create roles. They will create new roles. It’s so heinous, but they will. When they want it to happen, they will make it happen.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (25:50): They will make it happen. While otherwise they hired this Black person and they don’t know what they’re doing, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, how are you supposed to do it well? How are you supposed to do it to the best of your abilities? If you don’t know what you’re doing.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (26:04): And there’s no roadmap and there’s no guide, and that really speaks to the white toxicity that we talked about last week. It kind of speaks to the gaslighting, because “I don’t understand why you’re not performing,” but yet at the same time, you haven’t given me a roadmap of how to.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (26:16): Right, exactly.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (26:17): So, that toxicity that eats away at people.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (26:21): Exactly. Exactly. So, just in general, if you’re a boss, make sure you have clear expectations for your people so they know what they’re supposed to be doing. That makes the workplace just a better place. Next there’s something called role overload. Do you feel overloaded in your role? Like, you only work six hours a day, but are they giving you like 12 hours a day worth of work? That’s overload.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (26:45): First of all, why is Jide in my… This feels like my first year at work at Stanford. It feels like my first year. Not the role ambiguity, but the work overload. I can say it’s to some degree the role conflict. Because although I didn’t have a family unit, like have a spouse and kids, I come from a very large family. And so I used to pride myself on [if] my people hit me up. I’m responding within a certain amount of minutes or within the day, and then I was noticing more and more it was taking me longer and longer to respond to my family, longer and longer to respond to my friends. And so I have a role as a daughter. I have a role as a friend, I have a role as an aunt. I am the last of 10 children. So, I have a lot of nieces, a lot of nephews and lots of siblings.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (27:34): Love that.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (27:36): And so my role of who I’ve been prior to going into this environment is shifting. So, that’s that role conflict we’re talking about. Then it’s like role overload. So, you’re asking me to do twelve hours of work–that really resonated with me–twelve hours of work in a six hour or ten hour or seven hour work day. I’m overloaded. And then you add that again. I just want to continue to paint the picture of the layers you added back to my metaphor, white toxicity, discrimination, maybe harassment. Now I got role conflict, role ambiguity and then I have role overload. This is a recipe for a mental health breakdown, because we can’t manage. Our bodies keep the score. I cannot reiterate that enough, and we can not manage that. I love what Justin B said, there’s no roadmap.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (28:38): And it’s also changing the different end zones.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (28:41): Goalposts, yes.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (28:42): Goalposts. Sorry, I think football all the time. First we’re going here, then we’re going here, then we’re going here, and it’s like, “Whoa, this is too much.” When toxic is too toxic. I’m sorry, I just had to pause and really illuminate that, because it feels like my first year at Stanford, and I wonder how different it would have been had I been able to have a space like this, to be able to name that this may be too toxic.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (29:09): Right. That support is so important. And I’m really happy that you identify with it. These are very well-researched concepts. So, that’s why you identify with it, because there are people watching this right now, listening to this right now who are like, “Oh, my God, I’m in a toxic workplace. I’m overloaded. Oh, my God, I have role ambiguity.” And there are other questions you can ask about your workspace. Is there a lot of passive-aggressiveness going on in the workplace? That’s not good. Are others unhappy? So you might be happy, but is everybody else around you unhappy? You might be spared of it for some reason.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (29:52): Right.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (29:53): Maybe because you’re a Laker fan and the boss is a Laker fan.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (29:56): Right.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (29:57): But is everybody else unhappy? Do you feel safe at work? Like, physically safe? Think about teachers right now. They’re in a toxic work environment because of our lack of gun control, X, Y, Z in the workplace. They’re in workplaces where people can come in and do whatever they want.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (30:14): Right.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (30:15): That’s toxicity. And then another big part is paycheck. I never want to take that, never want to miss that. Are you satisfied with your paycheck? Do you feel like it reflects your expertise? Probably the biggest part, do you feel like you’re being paid equitably with other people? I still remember the first time I found out somebody else is being paid significantly more than me. There are no words.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (30:46): What was your reaction, Jide? How did you manage it?
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (30:46): So one, thanked this person for letting me know, first and foremost, because you don’t have to tell them how much you make.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (30:54): Right.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (30:55): “Thank you for letting me know so I can know this.” Like, “Oh, you’re being paid $9,000, $10,000 more than me?” This is a toxic workspace for me, right?
Dr. LaWanda Hill (31:05): Right. Yes. Oh, wow. Okay.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (31:08): Yes. So, those are just some points to know I am in a toxic workspace.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (31:14): And I think this is important to just really pause and take it in. So, for those people who are listening live, great, and I’ll be curious if y’all can drop in the chat, what has been your reactions to what we presented so far about number one, just some of the things that make a workplace toxic. We know that no work environment is perfect, but there are certain work environments that have much more toxic elements than others, and that’s our indicator that it’s become too toxic. So, I would love to hear people drop in the comments for those who are live, what has come up for them. There are many people who are going to review this after and think about these things. And so, as you’re reflecting, I would invite you to just really pause and think about like, “Wow, how many elements have they listed tonight feels like it reflects my work environment?” Is there white toxicity in gaslighting? Which is, like, psychological manipulation, pretending that what’s happening is not happening. Is there white toxicity in white niceness? So, I am being nice and kind as a guise to not have to address some of the more difficult structural issues, like pay inequity, like sexism. And so I’m feeling like–but they’re being unkind about it, but also not addressing the issue, or am I experiencing toxicity because of this whitewashing where something happened and then there’s a completely different narrative that feels a little bit more pash and a little bit more comfortable because the person involved happens to be white? And so we want to make it seem more favorable for them. One level of white toxicity. Are you experiencing discrimination where those things that make your body tell you that you feel some type of way about it, but you’re dismissing it, that you’re being left out, that you’re being discriminated against, that you’re not being included or you’re being harassed or that you don’t have a lot of guidance in your role. There’s no goalpost for you. You’re being overloaded in your role. You’re very ambiguous about what you’re supposed to be doing. And so this is toxic, and I think that that takes some reconciliation, like, “Yes, this is toxic.” And so what do we do with that? So we know only we can determine how many of those variables and how much toxicity is too toxic for us. Is it something that has caused burnout for us? Where we’re exhausted all the time, we got cynicism going on, we don’t want to go to work, we’re depleted. We’re not showing up in these other roles that we have. Maybe it’s too toxic. So what do we do? What do we do with that is always the question. And ideally, we would self-select out of these environments.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (34:03): Peace.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (34:03): Deuces. This is not worth my mental health. Not worth my time with my family, my enjoyment with my family. We will self-select out, ideally, but we also know that that’s not always people’s reality and they don’t have that yet. They may be working on an exit strategy but can’t exit. So what we’re going to offer are some tips to manage that toxic environment, when toxic becomes too toxic. First I think is the big piece, to just name it. What we have tried to do is give a lot of language to these experiences so that you can name it, because a lot of times what I find, especially with Black people at work, we’ve been so taught to work harder and doing more, to not complain, that we will dismiss our experiences and you won’t get a choice.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (34:47): Listen to your body.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (34:50): Listen to your body. Your body will tell you, “Hey, I got this pain in my neck or this pain in my shoulder,” or what have you. I think it’s important to be able to acknowledge that there’s toxicity and that the toxicity is having an impact on me. Acknowledge it and then say that it’s having an impact.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (35:10): That’s the first step always, identifying.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (35:12): Always the first step. So let’s say they’ve acknowledged that, Jide, that this is toxic, what will be a good tool next? Like, what is one of the tools you would offer for people to be able to really manage that impact?
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (35:26): So, one thing I like to do, and this is something my oldest sister taught me because she’s been in toxic workspaces. She’s a lawyer and she has a PhD and she’s just been in the most toxic workspaces.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (35:38): That sounds like a recipe for toxicity.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (35:38): For a disaster. And she’s told me–this is one of the most important things you can do–keep track of everything. Seriously. Anytime somebody says something that makes you go, “Hmm,” keep track of it. Write down an Excel file. Write down the name, write down the date, write down what happened to the best of your memory. Because you might write off one thing as, “Oh, well, that’s just Joe being Joe,” “That’s just so and so being funny,” whatever, but if you look back at that file, you’ll see, “Oh, my God, this is a really anti-Black space.”
Dr. LaWanda Hill (36:11): That’s good.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (36:13): Keep track of it.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (36:15): I liked that because that keeping track helps to validate your experience.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (36:19): Exactly.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (36:19): So Joe being Joe today, damn. Joe been being Joe for like three months.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (36:25): Right. Exactly.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (36:25): And then I call it a death by a thousand cuts, because let’s say Joe had a bad day. Well damn, Joe had 15 bad days and had 15 incidents, and those 15 incidents are starting to add up. It’s going to eat away at me. So, I think that leads me to the next tip that I want to offer when we’re talking about when toxic becomes too toxic and how you manage it, is we have to get to a place where we take time to pause, even when we’re in toxicity, to accurately remove ourselves from it. They say in the metaphor, like, “Let’s say you walk into a room and it’s a bad smell, and as soon as you walk in the room you could smell it. You’re like “Damn, what is that?” Then you smell it for a while, like five, ten minutes. Let’s say you sit in that room for about an hour or two. You don’t smell it anymore. You have to leave that room to come back to say, “Oh, damn, it’s still there.” What I find with us, namely as Black people in these toxic environments, is that we don’t take enough space away from the space to be able to pause and check in with ourselves and say, is the smell still there? How am I going to manage it?
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (37:33): Right.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (37:34): And that could be a vacation. Great. Ideally, but that could just be 30 minutes at the end of your day while you’re in the shower. That could be a daily practice of “Let me check in. How often did I feel excited at work? How often did I feel depleted? How often did I feel dismissed? How often did I feel devalued?” And by doing that daily, then we now can say, “Okay, wow. I have felt heavy the last few days. What am I going to do with that?” Based on our means and based on what we have access to, that may be, you know what, “I’m going to have me a mental health day,” or that may mean, “Okay, I need some extra time. I need to go to the break room. I just need somebody to name my experience. I need to be in community. I need to be around friends.” Beause if you’re a frontline worker and maybe you don’t necessarily have salary time to take off and your work environment is too toxic, just giving yourself that five to ten minutes to check in with yourself and ask you how you’re doing can determine, “Okay, well, who do I need to connect with to help me with this? What kind of space do I need to go to that’s going to be validating and affirming for me?”
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (38:36): That’s great advice.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (38:36): We have to take those moments to pause, to really check in and say, “How do I feel today? Am I fatigued because I have 20 meetings? Or am I fatigued because man, I was dismissed in every single one of those meetings?”
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (38:51): Great point.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (38:52): What’s the fourth and final one? Before we accept any questions people have,
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (38:59): I always say it’s important to advocate for yourself. They will–if you’re silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it. Right? They’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (39:14): Let’s say it again for the clip. I want that to be a clip.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (39:16): I didn’t make that up. I apologize. I don’t know who said it. I forgot who said it. Somebody said it. It was a Black woman writer who said it. “If you’re silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it.” It might’ve been Zora Neale Hurston. But they will do that because, “Well, you never made a complaint to HR. The boss never said anything. So how would I know that you’re not feeling happy at this workspace?” And at the end of the day, it’s still the head person’s responsibility to make sure all things are handled in a responsible way. It was Zora Neale Hurston. I knew it. Thank you, sir. I appreciate you. But it’s still your responsibility, at least the things they didn’t see, to let them know. At a very basic level, you do have to, because at least it’s out there. If they don’t do anything, they didn’t do anything.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (40:09): And I think that that’s humanizing. I think it’s humanizing to share. People may or may not validate it, but it’s humanizing to be like, “Hey, that impacted me.” And they may gaslight you and look you in the face like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” but I gave a voice to what happened to me and that’s one way of moving through it.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (40:24): And then you show that Excel file. If they say, “Oh, that’s just Joe being Joe,” then you show that Excel file. Well, Joe’s been Joe over and over.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (40:35): Right. I love it. I love it. I love it. So this is good. I want to take a moment to pause, and if there’s any questions or reactions that y’all have–we do have one question we wanted to address or people have written in. But I think it’s important to talk, to open it up for questions and think about where we’re really wrestling with this, and I see this all the time y’all as a psychologist, the body keeps the score, and especially in 2020 I have seen and treated so many Black folks who are in toxic environments, and that toxicity is being exacerbated by white toxicity, by discrimination, by harassment, by role conflict, by burnout. And I want to see us well, and it takes some intentionality to be well in this particular time. So, I just think that it’s important to acknowledge that, that we are not moving through the world like everybody else, because we do live in the anti-Black society, which means we can’t just take for granted that our work environments are going to support our mental health. In fact, they’re going to challenge it. So, I want to name that and address the question.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (41:47): “I’m constantly frustrated by my competency.” I didn’t write this question. This was a question that somebody wrote and so I’m just saying it. “I’m constantly frustrated by my competence and capability being questioned by white folks at work. It’s consistently invalidating and discouraging. What are ways I can handle this mentally?”
Dr. LaWanda Hill (42:05): Ways you can handle this mentally. I would say let’s do what we talked about tonight. Let’s name it for what it is. This is a function of white toxicity that is manifesting in the form of gaslighting, being questioning of you and in a lot of fragility and anti-Blackness. Because if your competence is being challenged, and there would’ve been no behavior to suggest that you should be challenged in that, then that is bias showing up. “Can you do this? Or can you perform this job and says who? And can I see the research on that?” So, you’re fundamentally questioning me. And I’m wondering if it’s because my racial identity, my gender identity of who I am. That is a manifestation of white fragility. I am being invalidated. Invalidation, I think, is a function of gaslighting. So, let’s name it for what it is. While you may not be able to change it, I think naming it can help you put it in its place. I always have this metaphor of a dumpster when I’m moving in these spaces as a Black woman, and I am, like, every day trying to figure out who’s throwing their shit at me. “Does it belong to me? Or does it belong to them?” So your invalidation, that’s white toxicity. You’re questioning my competence. That’s white toxicity. I’m going to throw it back at you. It’s not mine.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (43:34): It’s not mine.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (43:34): It is not mine. So, when I say that to myself, it doesn’t change the impact, but it does help me to figure out what I need to do. So, now it’s like, “Okay, that belongs to you. I’m going to name it as such. What now can I do with the lingering emotions that come? Am I going to join a community? Am I going to go and disconnect? Am I going to go to something that celebrates?” If y’all have not watched last week’s episode, I encourage you to do so, because we gave a lot of tips and tools about how to manage this or manage white toxicity. I’m going to go in community where people hear me, see me, validate me. I’m going to engage in something that I enjoy. I’m going to engage in something that makes me feel empowered. I’m going to engage in something that’s pleasurable. These are all my coping mechanisms to manage this white toxicity. So, that would be my response to that.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (44:23): And I’ll just say once again, I’ll just reiterate this. Advocate for yourself. Advocate for yourself. And this is just on a personal level, times in my life where I let stuff slide, the next few hours, next few days, I’d be like, “Man, I should have said this. I should’ve done this. I should’ve said this.” You know what? In that moment, say what you need to say. Actually, if somebody says a racist joke, “Oh, I don’t get it. Can you explain it?” That’s the best way to respond to a racist joke.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (44:52): That’s good.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (44:52): “I don’t get it. Can you explain it?”
Dr. LaWanda Hill (44:54): And I love this. Oh, wow. I had a reaction to that. Can you say more? I’m putting it back on you, right? You threw that on me, I’m putting it back on you. We have another one today. I’m asking you this time and I’m going to weigh in. Thank you so much for sharing this. “I have been told that I have an escalating attitude by a white supervisor a while ago.” I would ask what’s the gender of that supervisor, because that matters. “I have been told that I have an escalated attitude by a white supervisor a while ago. That assessment still haunts me, though I have been moved to a different position.” And I will also ask, when you say haunts you, is it something that comes up for you all the time that you think about it? “How can I try to function at work while seeking employment elsewhere?” So it sounds like it’s loaded. It sounds as if there’s still been an impact of those comments, and then you’re also wanting to assess a way out, but how do you function? So what do you say to that Jide? Like, you have somebody who told you–it just sounds very loaded. An escalated attitude.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (45:53): First and foremost, thank you for asking that question and sharing your experience with us. We appreciate you taking the time, and we’re here to listen and we care about you. We’re sorry you experienced that. You did not deserve that.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (46:04): At all.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (46:05): Full stop. You did not deserve that. Whoever said that is a jerk. And that kind of language, “You have an escalating attitude,“ that’s something that’s often thrown at Black women at work. It’s kind of saying you have an attitude. You’re uppity. You think you’re better than other people. But they’re wrong. You’re doing you, you’re focusing on your tasks, you’re handling your business. When somebody doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do, what are you supposed to do? Just let it slide? So just keep doing what you’re doing. I would say whoever that was, avoid them. Avoid them. That’s one thing. People who you don’t want to see, you know what, when you see him in the hallway, carry on, go walk another way. Find a new path instead of going past their office. That’s one thing. But you know it’s not true. So, first and foremost, and for me personally, that’s always something that helps me when somebody says something about me that’s not true – it’s not true.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (47:05): And I think I love that. And I would offer for the person who asked the question, I would ask them–well, this sounds like this has happened already, and so I think in the moment for next time, because we really never know how to respond to these microaggressions in the moment, I would say “Really evidenced by what? What characterizes the escalated attitudes? Can you share more with me for that?” And it’s kind of like flipping out, like, “Share with me, help me understand that,” because what happens is you’ve internalized it, but it wasn’t yours to internalize. It’s theirs. So, what constitutes the escalated attitude? Give me an example. They’re going to say something ridiculous, something stupid. And I’m going to say to myself internally, “Okay, that’s not it. That’s just anti-Black.”
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (47:51): That’s just saying Black people are aggressive. That’s really what it’s saying. Black people are aggressive. Black people are aggressive.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (47:57): I use that level of intensity with my energy and that’s fine.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (48:02): Right.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (48:02): Now, as you’re trying to maneuver moving forward and being present, I would say that it’s going to be difficult. That was the question, like, “How do I stay present and actively look for another job?” I think it’s challenging because your energy is split. You are psychologically trying to disengage from the current environment but still have to be there. And so, I think some of the coping tools that we talked about earlier, about surrounding yourself in a community space that you feel empowered or validated, are going to be helpful, because it’s going to be hard to cope in that environment.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (48:35): Yes. Great answer. Thank you. And thank you again for sharing that question with us and, you know, whoever said that is wrong. Just remember that. They’re wrong.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (48:46): I love it. I love how Jide goes back to it. Like, let’s reiterate it. All right. So, that’s good. That’s good. We’ve had a really good conversation. I hope y’all have taken away from this, number one, what are some elements of toxicity in the workplace? When does toxic become too toxic? And how do we manage it and cope with it if we are really in less than ideal circumstances? I hope y’all will continue to come back. Next Thursday at the same time, same place, we’ll proceed to unpack some of the things that impact Black folks at work. But before we go, we’re going to go ahead and do our Last Nerve. Should I be graced with the owner of The Last Nerve, Jide?
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (49:24): It’s all you. You do it the best. Thank you.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (49:27): All right. So let me set my timer. We do set a timer. I think this is a good practice, because as Jide said earlier, negative animosity is not helpful for us in the long-term. That’s why we don’t give it more than ninety seconds.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (49:40): Let it go.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (49:42): All right. So, I’m coming for patriarchy today, because patriarchy annoys me. So, here’s my Last Nerve, and this is dedicated to Derrick. Now, this isn’t even dedicated to Derrick. Derrick represents a system of patriarchy that consistently inflicts harm with minimal to no consequence. Why? Because of misogyny and because of patriarchy that centers men, that escalates men, that centers their opinions of telling women how to engage the world. People continue to come to them for those opinions in good faith, wanting to figure out how they can achieve goals, and they continue to epically fail. You are the problem. You represent a system of the problem. You have no expertise. You have no training. You have no education, therefore you have no position to tell any woman how they should engage and pursue relationships and solve their issues. And to add insult to injury, you got the nerve to be part of the problem out here cheating. So what I want to say on my Last Nerve is men like Derrick who are a classic example of patriarchy, sit your ass down somewhere. Humble yourself before you be humble. That’s that on that.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (51:15): Love that. Love that. I couldn’t agree with you more. Thank you. Thank you.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (51:20): That’s my timer. And I’m going to release that, y’all. That’s that.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (51:24): Derrick Jaxn represents a system of patriarchy that inflicts harm with minimal consequences. Sorry. I had to type that in the chat.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (51:32): Oh, we have to hold him accountable, and you have to hold him accountable by calling it out. So, thank y’all for engaging. I’ve appreciated this. Jide, thank you for the research. Thank you for reminding me that negative emotions aren’t helpful.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (51:47): Always, thank you.
Dr. LaWanda Hill (51:47): Next week, same time, same place on The Break Room, we’re going to continue to center Black response.
Dr. Jide Bamishigbin (51:51): Be safe.