The Mistrust of Me
You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away and know when to run ...
"No one questioned him," she said, "they automatically gave him their trust. Me? I had to prove that I was trustworthy."
I could see the concern in my friend's face during a recent Zoom call. With her permission, I'm sharing a recent experience she had at a former company. We held our version of a friendly post mortem conversation about her decision to leave her job of 10 years over a few glasses of our favorite beverage. As we unpacked her situation, we pretended to clink our glasses with each revelation and then took a sip in solidarity.
She said that about 16 months ago, the company hired another senior-level manager to run the project management office alongside her. That business had grown despite COVID's impact on the economy, and they needed additional "capable hands." The company's words, not hers.
"From the first Zoom call, I could see it," she recounts. "People were on the edge of their seats waiting to hear from him as if he was this great prophet coming to save us. That he would utter divine revelations."
She took it all in stride and worked with her new colleague to orient him to their processes, introducing him to the staff -- just being a connector for him. But, after about a year, she noticed that while the enthusiasm from her colleague was high, his productivity was low. He made careless mistakes repeatedly -- not the types of errors one should expect from a senior manager.
"Each time he failed, we rallied around him and talked about how we could have operationalized better. We called it recalibrating. It was a great framework for problem-solving," my friend recalled.
My friend began to notice even more that if she made mistakes, she'd get second-guessed on calls in front of everyone and on emails. But, on the other hand, if he made mistakes, people just nodded and rolled with it.
So I had to ask: Was this happening before he came?
She said that there were rumblings here and there and that she was always questioned - it came with being a Latina in authority. But there was a stark difference between how she was treated as a Latina professional and how he was treated as a White professional man.
She said that she had to prove herself over the past 10 years with every single act. Some days she'd be micromanaged from her leadership team ad nauseam, which stifled all of her creativity, killed her motivation, and all that she had to show for it as of late was a prescription for Losartan.
As he became further acclimated in the company, soon she found herself uninvited to meetings, left off critical communications and updates, and he began speaking over her and for her. All this while he was poorly managing his portfolio of projects.
She decided to take the high road and offered to collaborate but was relegated to coordinating. I added my two cents here and said that diverse perspectives are lost when our voices go unheard, and there's no room for growth. Further that it erodes trust among the team. It also seems like this has been an uphill battle, that this foolishness didn't just start with him, but it certainly escalated matters. And he certainly didn't help. He used his privilege to assert himself and capitalized off any minor cracks that he saw in their armor— providing a false sense of trust all while marginalizing my friend.
I think part of getting to that trust factor is to know your worth. Do you trust you? Do you trust the people with whom you work? It's easy to respond with a quick yes because we innately trust ourselves when the landscape is known. When there is certainty and familiarity, we trust that we know how to navigate those situations -- even the environments where we know there's BS, we armor up and soldier on. But we often do not trust ourselves when there's a high degree of uncertainty. Or if we believe there's no way out, that what lies before us is our only choice.
I'm inspired by Michaela Coel, the beautiful Ghanaian-British actress, screenwriter, director, producer, and singer who recently won an Emmy for her series, "I May Destroy You." The story goes that back in 2017, she turned down a $1 million deal from Netflix because they wouldn't allow her to retain a small percentage of the copyright.
She walked away from Netflix. She walked away from her American-based agents because she realized that it was all "crazy" that she was negotiating away her art -- herself. Michaela knew deep down that she deserved better and could get better. A few months later, the BBC gave her everything she was looking for, including a seat at the development table and full creative control.
Big. Big. Sip.
What barometer are you using to determine if you're successful? Do you think that you're in a no-win situation? You're not.
Iyanla Vanzant says, "Learning to trust yourself means focusing on the good you are, the good you have, and the good you desire so that the truth can heal all error thought and allow you to see the blessing hidden in all that you have been through, gone through, and grown through."
I think my friend stayed with that company for all those years because she believed she had no other choice. That because she'd learn how to function in a dysfunctional environment that slowly chipped away at her soul, she didn't trust herself.
"It just hit me one day," she shrugged and drank the last of her wine. "I decided that I could continue to work in an environment that did not value me, or I could go look for better."
She found better.
Final thoughts: I wanted to add about my friend’s story that in many cases, this is the type of situation where we’ve been encouraged to lean in. What I know for sure is that WOC have been leaning in for decades, practically horizontal on the table. At some point, we have to stop trying to be included and choose ourselves.
Watchlist & Inspiration
This month’s watchlist & inspiration sections are dedicated entirely to Luvvie Ajayi Jones aka the Professional Troublemaker, she delivered via her Instagram hot tea and facts. This is a whole TED talk, to see the full 10 slides visit her IG account:
I’ve been listening to good music and reading good books this month:
Cold Beer Calling My Name by Jameson Rodgers featuring Luke Combs
Industry Baby by Lil Was X and Jack Harlow
Tennessee by Arrested Development
The Schuyler Sisters Song by Renée Elise Goldsberry from the Hamilton Soundtrack
Somebody’s Daughter: A Memoir by Ashley C. Ford
Thanks so much supporting InclusivelyHer. As always, thanks for reading. It’s my hope in sharing stories and other bits of information you’ll be inspired on your own journey.