Working while foreign
I don’t think we realise how difficult it is, for a second language Black person to thrive in a Eurocentric workplace, which no offence, is the culture or South Africa’s corporate. I’m not saying that should change. I am saying that Black people who did not receive education from multiracial schools should cut themselves some slack if they are struggling in this environment.
Just learning another language is not easy, it takes a child about 7 years to speak at a basic level. Many black people will probably have their first academic class in 100% English in their first year of University . Since people make friends with people they are comfortable with, if they never have a white friend in university; the first 100% English conversation they are going to have is at the workplace.
Another obstacle Black people face, is that we often measure confidence by how assertive and outspoken a person is. We talk about negotiating for a salary raise and a promotion; about self promotion and articulating your transferable skills, making bold legacy changing decisions, etc
For a Black African woman, these are the same things she has and continues to be told they are shameful behaviours (uyaphapha, uyadelela, uyaqhoma.)
The same measures of success in a Eurocentric workplace are a shameful behaviours in most African cultures.
When one works in an environment where, who they are and how they do things is foreign. It takes more and often longer for that person to thrive, to feel and be seen as capable; the imposter syndrome is real.
So cut yourself some slack if your first leadership position happens only when you are in your forties as compared to the young Black woman who studied abroad and is the youngest executive at 28. Ignore the white person who insists on correcting your grammar instead of listening to the core message. Forgive yourself for not speaking up when you could have because you blanked and the ‘right words’ didn’t come.
You are working while foreign. In a culture whose nuances you are still learning and you are doing great .
Are you a Black Woman in the Workplace who feels called to the next level of leadership, income and impact?
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