I spoke to a friend recently who’s in the job market. She’s in a good spot in that she’s already employed, she’s just looking for a better opportunity. But she was grumbling about one particular person she works with who has single handedly spurred her to go hard at her job search.
I just laughed. There’s always one, right?
Then I asked her: If it wasn’t for that one person would you like your job? She said yes. She’s learned a lot there, met some truly remarkable people who’ve helped her to hone her intangible and tangible skill sets.
Is there room to grow, I asked?
“I don’t know,” she answered. “And that’s another reason I’m looking. I always want to see a way forward,” she explained. “If I don’t see one, I need to move on.”
I hear that. Things move so quickly, if you’re not growing and learning, you’ll soon find yourself made redundant these days. And careers are supposed to elevate. You don’t want to plateau. Even stretch assignments or horizontal career moves ultimately have vertical purpose.
But as we talked I cycled back around to that one person, the problem child. What was it that was so intolerable?
“The dishonesty,” my friend said promptly. “I disdain liars.”
After I stopped laughing at her wonderful use of the word disdain — a love for language has always been a bonding point for us — I agreed.
“There’s just no need to lie!” To do so suggests so many other potentially huge problems, said my friend.
“Like what?” I teased. We’ve had derivations of this conversation before.
“Delusion,” she shot back. People pleasing, ego out of wack, insecurity, entitlement. “Am I wrong?”
No, I assured her. Not in the least. Because there really is no point in lying, especially at work. You will be found out, and then you’ll be a liar on top of being incompetent, late, or whatever.
But lying, fudging or stretching the truth, white washing, prevaricating, allowing passive aggressive language, is often a cultural cancer in companies. Why? Because the leaders don’t make it clear that honesty and transparency are not negotiable. They don’t set that stage, and they don’t unapologetically dance to that tune.
That’s why I never really took it seriously when anyone suggested that I should do diversity work, she said. “Can you imagine me trying to tell a bunch of people why they should or should not treat black and brown bodies with respect?”
I laughed until I lost breath. Um, that would be a no. Because I don’t think I could do it either. In fact, I’m almost positive I couldn’t.
Not because I don’t think it’s important.
It most certainly is!
And certainly not because I couldn’t do it.
I could! But I don’t want to, and my colorful friend explained why perfectly, and this is me paraphrasing: The idea of trying to coax some biased or deluded person into understanding why their behavior and attitudes against someone who doesn’t look like them is creating a toxic environment, harming the company, or taking opportunities away from deserving people, kind of makes me throw up in my mouth a little.
When I could breathe again from laughing, I asked her, “Do you suppose that makes us bad black people?”
Of course I was teasing, but her reply was serious when she slowly said, “No.” Black people spend too much time explaining the obvious as it is. If we disdained that often hypocritical, insincere, liar’s request to explain that which should be obvious, we’d have a lot more to show for ourselves.
It’s like Chauvin’s prosecutor, she said. “Can you imagine sitting in a court room day and after day, and it’s your job to provide evidence in order to prove that it’s wrong to kneel on a man’s neck and kill him?”
Hard no, I said. Such things should not require taxpayer’s hard-earned money, or the nation’s time and attention, and black folks energy. If you kill someone, you should be punished. Period.
“Agreed,” she said. “And quickly! But that’s what happens when you’re surrounded by liars.”
You spend a lot of time skirting solutions to real problems and explaining the obvious because they’ve convinced you it’s not obvious — even though it patently is, she explained.
At any rate, she had a wonderful second interview this week. She was super excited about it, and I sent out a prayer for her.
Why’s this one special? I asked.
“My future boss,” she said immediately. “Her vibe is amazing.”
Chill, serene, professional, but engaged, polished, and knowledgeable, and the peers she met in the second interview echoed the same vibe, which means, she said, excited, it’s spilling down the line from her.
Good leadership is a beautiful thing, I agreed.
“She seems kind,” she said. A straight shooter. “I feel like I could learn a lot from her.”
And for those of us in the workforce, that is also a wonderful thing.