Updating corporate culture by sharing old behaviors. How I opened up about my experience to a previous boss to help make change happen for current and future employees.
When I shared with friends and community colleagues the idea for this conversation, there was a lot of support and plenty of questions. The effort was quickly compared to “opening a can of worms.”
“The risk we understood was that speaking out meant challenging long-standing corporate culture...and risked employment status and opportunities.”
When the deaths of the Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor prompted the #BlackLivesMatter protests across the country, I held off starting this conversation because we needed to focus on the very lives, experiences and safety of Black people at the hands of members of law enforcement intent on causing harm. The conversation regarding race and economic equity was inevitable but could wait a bit longer.
That ended when companies and organizations started pledging public support. I wondered how companies were going to make change happen. So often corporate cultures are defined by members of leadership, and try as one might, there is a trickle-down effect.
Here I rely heavily on John Lewis’ quote above. Since the protests, and in the spirit of my own “good trouble,” (it has been one of my consistent traits as an employee) I reached out to an executive at a former workplace to share feedback on one particular experience, a one-on-one conversation with a titled department head. One of the topics on the agenda included a discussion of my professional motivations and my pursuit to have a seat at the table.
The result, of course, was my exclusion in future high-level meetings related to my area of expertise, experience and leadership. I concluded that this exchange was an example of failure in diversity and inclusion, and leadership, among other things. I further added that I had openly discussed the encounter with others. In the end, these behaviors had been accepted as the new normal.
So, was this a result only of new management and different personalities? Blackballing? Intentional efforts to push someone out of the door? Racism? Not playing the game of office politics? After close to two years of counting the many ways that I was experiencing exclusion, and finding sympathetic ears but no champions, there was little room to stay. The situation had reached an end point, and one that left me with little recourse.
With all that I had experienced, I sent the message by email but did not offer to engage further. I did wish them well for the sake of supporting a community to which I had belonged and I truly had some of the best colleagues. My goal wasn’t to reconnect but to inform, and I hoped, contribute to improving an environment for future people of color, as I would have liked others to do for me.
So, in the spirit of “good trouble,” here is this blog’s questions: to truly embrace support for #BLM and #POC in corporate America, what changes can companies make to improve employee professional growth and the corporate experience?
Employees, the floor is yours. Follow the conversation @CL3Talks on Twitter.
I get it, anonymity is important, responses can also be emailed to email@example.com.
A moment to reflect
I spent much of last week watching news of Congressman John Lewis’ passing. I am still reading, and watching, and learning. He truly was a great man. The moment when the procession reached, paused and then crossed, the Edmund Winston Pettus Bridge, making happen what had been denied to him 55 years before, was my emotional undoing. Like many heroes before him, I will always feel humbled, and never qualified to speak about him, but I am impacted by him, and fortunate to add him to my list of leaders.
Writing about it now doesn’t feel right but I would be remiss in not acknowledging the impact of John Lewis. It does not escape me that because of his work and sacrifice, and others like him, I now have privileges and opportunities to work toward the betterment of our country’s future, and the people who live in it.
John Lewis’ op-ed in The New York Times will continue to serve as a reminder of the man he was and the call to action for everything that comes in the months and years ahead.
RIP John Lewis
— M @ CL3Talks