The Dangers of The Mainstream Motivation Culture.

When I started the personal development reading culture, I read books like ‘Think and Grow Rich, ‘The Power of Positive Thinking, ‘How to Influence People, ‘The Secret’, etc. These books created for me role models like Napoleon Hill, Thomas Edison, Dale Carnegie, Stephen Covey, Toni Robinson, etc. I learned in these books that I have the power to change my own life and if I believe and work towards whatever I wanted then I could have it. The influence of these books contributed to the motivation and work ethic that probably allowed me a level of success that I have achieved and I am grateful.

However, these books also wounded my self-esteem.  The – ‘you can achieve all that you want if you put your mind to it, look at Thomas Edison or Dale Carnegie, they built America’ – dream left some important facts out of the conversation. What was left out was the privilege that came with whiteness. The cheap labour built American and American enterprises due to slavery and racial oppression.  It left out the challenges that I would face as a Black woman because of bias and lack of resources. The internalization of failures that I have experienced caused me not to believe in myself enough and not trust that I am working hard enough which was taught by motivation theory. When in reality, those so ‘failures’ were a result of the absence of a privileged background.

This crystallises the fact that the motivation culture and like many other dominant worldviews come from ‘whiteness’ as a universal perspective. The truth is, there are different obstacles to life that one could face because they are black, or female, or even both. Those experiences are not often as identical as they seem. Adopting that worldview leads to us judge our achievements or lack thereof, using a flawed standard. A standard that omits the lived experiences of those who do not have that privilege.

Can You Afford to Be Your Authentic Self at Work? 5 Strategies for Black Women.

Even though we seem to be seeing more and more images of Black Women appointed in senior leadership positions in the workplace, the default image of a competent business leader is still a White Male. Anyone who does not fit into that description experiences bias, i.e. they might be pre-judged as incompetent for leadership positions because they don’t fit the stereotype. Although many still argue that this is no longer the case due to well publicized appointments of Black Women being appointed for senior leadership roles from Takealot to Fortune 500 companies, the evidence shows a different picture. The Commission for Employment Equity report revealed that Black Women still only represent 5,7% of top leadership positions, even though they represent 36% of the economically active population. 

Conventional career advice given to women who aim for leadership positions is to act more like men. Women are told that their natural feminine behaviour does not inspire confidence in their competence to lead. Women are constantly advised that if they want to be taken seriously, they have to let go of some of their natural, or should I say conditioned feminine traits. I say “conditioned” because women and men are raised differently. Women are raised to nurture families, as supporters and caretakers, while men are raised for leadership and agency as future providers and winners in the public arena.   

Some of the areas where women experience the most criticizm are:

  • Communication: e.g. posing statements as questions, using language that is more accommodating and passive while waiting to be recognized before speaking in a meeting instead of just speaking up as men often do.
  • Confidence: not taking risks, that we only apply for a position we 100% qualify for, that we remain invisible by refusing to talk about our accomplishments and hoping that our work would speak for itself and hiding our ambitions hoping someone will notice us. 
  • Our Appearance: that wearing clothing that accentuates our femininity reduces us to sex objects; to be taken seriously our choice of clothing should be closer to the masculine as possible.
  • For Black Women, in particular, this expectation imposes that we not only assimilate to male characteristics but also White/western characteristics. Black women have been advised not to wear their hair naturally, to speak with an accent and behave in a way that is more acceptable or “professional” to (white) society.

Women have indicated that they feel like they have to be someone else as soon as they step into the office and they find this mentally exhausting. They feel they have to prove over and over again that they are worthy of the positions that they aspire to. Even when they have those positions, they still have to fight for their authority to be recognized. Black women have reported been mistaken for a help or an assistant in situations where they would be the most senior in the room.

There have been several articles indicating that some Black women do not want to go back to the office after working remotely during the COVID19 pandemic lockdown. nytimes.com, (June 23, 2021). They have indicated that working remotely is conducive to better mental health as they don’t have to deal with acts of micro-aggression and the need to pretend they are someone they are not . Micro-aggression is defined as a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group. (Merriam-Webster (2021))

Black women are simply exhausted due to the emotional labour that it takes to build a career. Every morning when they step out of their homes, they put on a mask and pretend to be who they are told to be to get ahead or keep their jobs. Black women are longing to be their authentic selves without risking their livelihoods. Some bravely step out as their authentic self, however, there is always a price to pay for authenticity.

For an example:

  • Research shows that black women who wear natural hair have fewer chances of being recruited for positions that require visibility compared to women who wear their hair straight. This includes black women who speak with a heavy vernacular accent.
  • Likeability Bias: Women pay the price if they are not likeable or warm, but when they are viewed as ‘too’ likeable they are considered too feminine and not coming across as competent enough to lead firmly.
  • Whistleblowers and women who report sexual harassment often pay the price with their careers.
  • Black women who speak up against microaggression at work that often disguises itself as attempts at friendliness are labelled angry black women who are not team players. 

The price of authenticity for black women is often too high to pay. Besides the strain on their mental health which can lead to physical illness and even deaths by suicide or sickness. There is also the strain on their financial resources. Black women are often the poorest of any population. Even those who earn more and have attained professional success, have to deal with high student loans debts, the weight of being first in the family, building from nothing, often being solely responsible for taking care of their family and extended family. This hinders them from building wealth and saving for a rainy day. Living from paycheque to paycheque means losing a job can have dire consequences within a very short period. 

Consequently, black women have found that they have to choose between pragmatism and authenticity. Pragmatism is defined as “a way of dealing with problems or situations that focuses on practical approaches and solutions—ones that will work in practice, as opposed to being ideal in theory. The word pragmatism is contrasted with the word idealism, which means based on or having high principles or ideals.” Dictionary.com (2021). Meaning that they either choose to assimilate at the risk of their mental health and at times their sense of self-respect, and behaving from an authentic self and paying the price with their careers. However, this does not have to be an all or nothing scenario. Change is slow but it is happening, while we are not where we want to be, we are not where we used to be. For an example, Hair discrimination policies have recently been banned in many workplaces in the US (cbsnews.com, November 30 2020) I know it may be appalling that we celebrate news like that in 2021, but that is the reality of things. 

While continuing to advocate for things to change, here are some strategies that one can employ to balance the need to be authentic and also pragmatic. 

  1. Define what you are willing and unwilling to change

This relies on knowing yourself and what behaviours from others you can stomach on a sustainable basis. If your office is the kind of environment that’s all about suits and heels and you are a free spirit who can’t think in a suit, maybe avoid workplaces like those. If you are already in such a workplace, you might have to bear it while looking for a position in a place that is more receptive to the kind of person you are.

2. Pace yourself – allow them to get to know you first

Rome was not built in a day. You might need to allow your colleagues to get to know you as a person before setting your Afro free or wearing that flat shoe, bringing that bit of colour to the boring black, brown and grey suit that is the culture in your company. I am using clothes here but this can apply to the other factors as well.

3. Pay your dues and make your mark.

Have you noticed that women appear more authentic when they are older and in senior positions of leadership? Sometimes you may have to pay your dues first before you can earn the right to not give a hoot what people think of you.

4. Be stronger in an area that is key, to compensate for the areas that you are not willing to compromise on.

Sometimes the best impediment against bias is effectiveness in areas that are considered key in that workplace. I am sure you’ve heard expressions like, so and so is maverick but he gets the job done or so and so might be rough around the edges but there is no one better at this and that than she is in this area. At times being effective in an area may cause ways that you don’t ‘fit in’ to get overlooked.

5. Keep strategically questioning the status quo in a way that does not alienate.

Often people who are in power do not like to be challenged. They may overlook your raising of issues that make them uncomfortable once or twice, however, once you get the label of the angry black woman or the militant activist in the workplace, you might get shut down in a way that keeps you from a seat at a table where you can influence change more effectively. We have to question the status quo to effect change, however how you do that is important as the saying goes ‘you can catch more bees using honey than vinegar’.

Bonus Tip: find a community where you can be your best self and have your cup filled.

The workplace has become a place where we look for fulfilment, purpose and recognition. While there is nothing wrong with that, it may be detrimental to your mental health to give one aspect of your life so much power. Find other ways to fulfil your needs. Find a community of like-minded professionals where you can vent and share tips and strategies, start a side hustle or a community project that fulfils you, practice self-care, invest in your professional development. All these will help give you the mental balance that you need to navigate the corporate world.

Click the link below for more career advice, executive coaching and various programs just for you. Join the community, we would love to be a part of building your dream career journey.

Are you a people pleaser? 5 reasons why you are not getting promoted

Everyone likes you. You’re that nice girl at Accounts or is it HR? Always smiling, always ready to lend an ear or a hand. You always go the extra mile, you are the go-to girl when there’s an emergency, you dress for the job you want as ‘they’ said you should……. Why is the promotion not coming? Why are you so anxious, tired and overwhelmed but don’t have the job title and salary to match? Here are 5 clues that can help you put that puzzle together.

  1. Inability to Set Boundaries

Everyone loves a hard worker. Peers love a colleague who is always ready and willing to do take on the slack and never complains. Bosses love a subordinate who is always willing to take on a task without complaining. It is often easier to just give the work to the one who will not make a fuss. Your colleagues might love you for your inability to say no because it guarantees that there’s always someone who will do what they don’t want to do. But no one respects a walkover and leadership requires one who can govern. The first place one governs is their boundaries. Wondering why you keep getting passed over for promotions? No one respects you.

2. Fear of Making Mistakes

While producing quality work will certainly get you noticed. Obsessive-compulsive nit picking will hold you back. For one it will take you longer to finish any piece of work you are given. This might keep you so busy and you might come across as overwhelmed and unable to take on more responsibility. I have often noticed how men do less, often don’t sweat the details but still get ahead. There are limited hours in a day and as much as it is important to produce work of good quality and to always dazzle your audience; your fear of making mistakes might keep you from assessing what level of effort is required for tasks that come to your desk. There are limited hours in a day, if you want to make an impact, you have to manage how you spend them.

3. Fear of Criticism

Criticism is not easy for anyone to take. Very few people can see negative criticism as constructive. However, if you do anything of importance, people will have different views about it, some valid and some not so valid. If you fall apart every time you get criticized, you might come across as fragile and your colleagues may withhold criticism that might be constructive. Research shows that male bosses often hold back criticism from their female subordinates because of the fear that they can’t handle it. Of course, this is bias. However, most people don’t like to be disagreeable, if you come across as fragile, people will treat you that way. You won’t inspire confidence to be trusted with more responsibility. There goes your promotion.

4. No Backbone

People pleasers often find that it is hard to be disagreeable. They may pretend to agree with anyone who has their ear in the name of politeness. Although this might earn them brownie points with whoever is listening, they can come across as phoney. If there are two sides to a conflict, people who are friendly with both sides are often viewed with suspicion. You need to be agreeable might come across to others as someone who doesn’t have any conviction and therefore cannot be trusted with responsibility or loyalty.

5. Fear of Disapproval

The fear of the disapproval of other people can be debilitating. One of the criticisms that are often levelled against women at work is not using their voice, especially in meetings. The fear of disapproval can make you second guess yourself and fail to communicate with confidence. 

It is also a weakness when one has subordinates. Fear of giving negative feedback, delegating and calling out one of your team members if their behaviour is unacceptable might break down the morale of the whole team, especially those who do their best. Leadership requires one to make unpopular decisions, if you have a fear of disapproval you will have difficulty in this area.

Positioning yourself for leadership will require you to show ambition and be willing to toot your own horn. These are traditional traits that women are often punished for demonstrating and can invite jealousy from others. If you have a fear of disapproval, you might shrink yourself to avoid disapproval. That guarantees that you will stay the best-kept secret, in the same position year after year.

In Conclusion

People-pleasing may guarantee that you are well-liked. Research shows that likability is an imposed standard for women at work, becoming one of the unfair biases which women have to contend with. However, to position yourself as a serious contender for strategic leadership positions; you need to command respect more than likability.

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Do Women Make More Toxic Bosses Than Men?

Women are often at the receiving end of abusive superiors. Challenges that women, and specifically Black Women, face in the workplace are well documented; Gender and racial bias, sexual harassment, unequal pay, bullying, lack of access to mentors/sponsors and more. What happens when the power shifts and the women are in the leadership role? Do women make more toxic bosses than men?

  1. Women Are Judged More Harshly Than Men

I once posed this question to our Black Women in the Workplace Facebook community, and an interesting hypothesis came up. We often experience women as more toxic because we expect them to be nice. Research shows that behaviour that is acceptable and even laudable in men is often considered offensive when it is demonstrated by women. What is deemed as ambition, firmness and passion, might be interpreted as forward, mean and emotional if you’re a woman. Both genders are not judged by the same standards.

The Lean in/ Mckenzie Annual Women in the workplace report cited the ‘likability bias’ as one of the challenges women have to contend with. The likability bias refers to the fact that women are expected to be likeable. However, being nice can also be associated with the inability to lead. As a result, women find themselves in this double-bind, where they are expected and also punished for being nice; required and punished for displaying leadership qualities like firmness. 

Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa Naspers first Black female CEO narrates an incident when she was still an intern. She approached this executive that was the only black woman in the leadership of that company and asked to be mentored. When the executive refused she was surprised and, on reflection, she realised that she had assumed that the woman should help her because she is a black woman. She had stereotyped her.

Could it be that women are not necessarily more toxic but they are judged more harshly than men? because they are expected to be likeable?

2. The Pressure to Prove Their Leadership Competence.

As a result of the historical exclusion of women and other races in corporate spaces; the stereotypical picture of corporate competent leadership is white and male. Women often find their competence doubted at best, this is compounded when they have to contend with racial bias as well as is the case for black women . Women in these positions find themselves under pressure to prove not only their competence to be in the position but their authority as well. Some women have opted to assimilate to masculine behaviours that are widely accepted as leadership qualities. They might decide to take on the tough stance as a way to protect themselves from being perceived as weak. Conventional advice on how women should behave in the workplace has evolved to allow for more authenticity, more displays of feminine behaviour, dressing, etc. however, that has not always been the case. Women often felt like they have to behave like one of the ‘boys’ to make it.

3. Women on Women Jealousy

We would like to believe that all women are matured and professional human beings who are so confident in themselves that they never feel jealous. However, the truth is jealousy is a human emotion, which is often a masked admiration for someone else’s qualities or achievements. We all feel jealous, even if it is for a moment before we remind ourselves to walk our own journey, stay grateful and that someone else’s win is not our loss. 

In the case of women, we are often conditioned to be in competition with other women for the attention of men. I suppose this comes from the olden days where a girl child had to be married for economic survival. The chosen one, or one who displayed qualities – mainly looks, that made her more likely to be chosen over others was the one to be envied. Even in the workplace, there are often situations where female bosses have bullied their female subordinates just because of jealousy and embarrassingly of superficial qualities like beauty, youth and male attention. Women who have been victims of such abuse would prefer to work for men and would therefore consider women bosses as more toxic than men.

4. Generational Jealousy

Generational jealousy is a term that I heard for the first time during the ‘Fees must fall’ student protest. The term refers to older generations’ jealousy towards the younger generation for achieving what they had failed to achieve. Older women might feel jealous of younger women not only because of their youth and beauty but their perception of how easy it is for them to get ahead quickly in the workplace. They might feel that they had to work much harder and longer. The perception is that the younger women have had it too easy and have not paid their dues. This might be compounded by the younger women’s seemingly better understanding of the current market, their ease with the digital world might make these older women bosses feel like they are slowly becoming redundant.

5. Women are Human 

Women are human and come in as many different personality types kinds as men do. Just as there are toxic, narcissistic, bullies who are men, the same applies to women. Women are often framed as motherly, people pleasers, emotional and/or weak at work. One often forgets that women can be just as mean as the meanest of men. Women can sometimes bring the high school mean girl stereotype to the workplace.

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To The Little Girl, I Once Was

Thank you for your dreams; they shape my reality.
Thank you for not allowing the smallness of your beginnings
to determine the reach of your imagination.

To the Little girl, I once was
Many times life seeks to tell me who I am
Who I should be, based on where I came from
It tells me that where I belong, what defines me
That no matter how hard I work, that’s where I will end up
There are many days when I am tempted to believe this……

Then I am reminded that where I came from is royalty
My origins are not the ghetto, that’s where apartheid drove my people to
My origins are the vast green fields of nature, where women walk around practically naked and unashamed, on the contrary – proud
My origins are a proud people, The great Zulu nation. Part of the even greater African nation.
Where beauty, celebration, abundance and Ubuntu reigned supreme
Where being born is enough to determine my worth.
Where there is no unemployment, illiteracy and unworthiness

To the little girl, I once was.
I have tried to assimilate to what they told me I should be if I want a bright future
Sometimes I win and it almost feels like I belong
But then there are times when my name, my hair and my imperfect command of the language of assimilation betrays my origins, once again I am the ‘other’
Despised, feared, tolerated, not because of anything that I have done
But because I am a reminder of the guilt of their ancestors,
I remind them that they come from a people who could be that cruel,
That they are still reaping the benefits of that cruelty

Just when the impostor syndrome is kicking in
I remember that I am an African in Africa, I belong
I am worthy because I am,
I might be different, maybe have a lot more to learn but definitely never inferior
I am reminded that I too am worthy of a seat at the table

To the little girl I once was, sometimes when life has kicked me to the ground
When I have faced another rejection, another closed door
Reminded of the words that were said to you in anger,
by those who were meant to protect and nurture you
‘You will never amount to anything they said
In those moments I am almost tempted to believe them
Then I am reminded that even they do not have the power to define me

I remember that you always knew you were meant for greatness, even though your circumstances dictated otherwise
Even though you were more often the poor among the poor, yet you still carried yourself like you knew you were somebody
To the little girl I once was, your dreams are my reality
I lean on your blind faith.

5 Ways Black Women Give Their Power Away In The Workplace

In our quest as Black women to level up in the workplace, we need to ensure that we are not sabotaging our success by marking the following mistakes.

  1. Working Too Hard

Working hard is still the surest way to success. However, overworking yourself may not give you the results that you think it will. As you move higher in leadership, it stops being so much about how hard you work but about the actual impact you make, especially within your team. It stops being about the output but more the effectiveness of what you do and how it affects the long term results of the organisation.

As Black women, we are conditioned to be “good girls” who follow the rules, and as a result, we often find ourselves struggling to be strategic about how we approach certain things in our lives. Our education system and societies conditioning have created workhorses out of us. This may get us ahead for a while but it does not sustain our upward trajectory. Not only that, it leads to overwhelm and burn out. When you set yourself as the go-to employee to getting things done, more and more work will be given to you. It may become unsustainable to continuously produce at the same rate if you do not set the boundaries.

Effective productivity is not just about getting things done but about prioritising the right things to get done first. It’s about understanding what the priority is, what is more impactful, and focusing on those. You do not want to be known so much as the one is who reliable but more importantly as the effective one. Reliable people are given everything that needs to be done but effective people are given work that creates an impact. Sift through the rabble and focus on the effective first.

2. Not Taking The Time to Understand “how things work around here.”

When you are a new employee, it is easy to fall into the trap of being the new broom that sweeps too clean for everyone liking. You might impress the powers that be but at the risk of breaking valuable relationships that you might need in the future. You will likely frustrate yourself when met with resistance. The most effective way to be impactful in a new place is by pacing yourself and taking the time to understand the company, the rhythm, power dynamics, the real culture and values, not just what is on the website. Your performance will be more effective when you know what’s what.

3. Needing to Be Perfect

Quality work is commendable, it certainly gets you noticed and keeps you on an upward trajectory. However, obsessing over ensuring that every minor detail is perfect is not only going to lead to burnout quickly but seriously hold you back. It is easier to ensure that every minute detail is perfect when the output relies on only yourself. However, when you need to collaborate on results, your need to perfect every detail may lead to a reputation of being too focused on minors details and not strategic enough.

The trick is to manage the balance of producing work that you can take pride in. and getting things done effectively. Perfection can also lead to the fear of delegating work because you do not trust that people will do things right or at least done your way. It can also lead to you holding yourself from taking risks in projects that you are not completely sure you can produce a perfect output of.

4. Inability to Delegate

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to a new leader is the inability to delegate. When are you are fresh out of a specialist role where you were used to relying on yourself to getting the job done, relying on others to get work done might become a challenge. When you are raised to be a typical strong Black woman who cannot rely on anyone to help them, you might find it especially challenging to let others do the work and have to rely on their output. This might be compounded by people-pleasing tendencies if you have been raised in a home where pleasing was the way you got approval. Asserting your leadership by delegating work might feel too uncomfortable for a people pleaser. 

Not only will this burn you out but it disempowers your authority and keeps you from fulfilling your leadership role as someone responsible for developing their subordinates. You are taking away development opportunities from your subordinates. You are also are going to be so busy that you are not available to fulfil the role of coaching, mentoring and support to your subordinates. And are also missing out on an opportunity to build a team that collaborates and achieves the departmental objectives as a collective.

5. Failing to Be Strategic

The other danger is that you will miss the trees for the forest, i.e. if your head is constantly buried in work, you miss your key leadership function of assessing and setting the strategic direction of your department. Even if you are still in a non-leadership position, you have to be strategic about your career trajectory. You have to balance performance with the bigger plan, the bigger objective of your career map. You have to constantly check in with where you are in your career plan and if you are still on the right track or you have fallen into the trap of getting stuff done because you are obligated. No one wakes up thinking about making your life better; it is up to you to do that. Keep your eye on the strategic plan while you take care of the day today.

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Take Advantage Of The First 90 Days Of Your New Job – Apply These 5 Tips

Congratulations on getting your job. Having gone through all the hoops of application, interview, contract negotiation, you have landed yourself right here. A new job is an opportunity to redefine your brand, especially in a new workplace. You can define who you want to be and be that person in a new place without the baggage of people who expect you to act a certain way. It is an opportunity to correct the mistakes you might have made in your previous job (such as not setting boundaries, playing small, etc.)

  1. Be intentional

The first thing that you need to remember is to be intentional about what you are doing in this job and how this job fits into your overall career path. If you have not yet created that plan, I will link the free career roadmap to help you map out what you want your career path to look. Assuming that you have already mapped out the plan, you fully grasp which stage your current role plays in your overall career path. It might be the ultimate job that leads to your retirement or a stepping stone to your dream job, or a role that helps you can transition to an industry of your choice. 

Having clarity about why you are in that role will help you when the job gets tough. The newness of the job fades, your expenses swallow the increases in your salary, and your colleagues are showing their true colours. When you start wondering if this was the right choice and start disengaging from the job, it will help to know precisely why you are there. 

2. Set a time frame

It helps to define how many years it will take to achieve the career objective that you have set for this job and future jobs along your career path. In my opinion, between 3 to 5 years is the longest a person should stay in a position. Otherwise, one stops learning and becomes stagnant, unless the industry you are in keeps changing and allows you to keep learning and growing. The 3-to-5-years rule does not include toxic environments that negatively impact your mental health. If you are in a toxic workplace and have done what you can to try and resolve that situation, please make a plan and leave.

3. Be a brand

The next thing to remember is that you are a brand. View yourself more like a service provider than just an employee. A service provider in the sense that you are servicing a client and you care about your output. Show that you strive to live up to your brand and live up to the brand values. This attitude will also help you when disillusionment with the company sets in. You are going to remember that no matter how you feel, you have to ensure that you are true to the brand that you have defined for yourself. 

4. Learn, learn, learn

Your first few months are a time to immerse yourself in learning and understanding the company. You will start with the macro analysis, then the industry, the actual company, the culture, the power structures, your departmental mandate, company policies and procedures. You want to understand what is crucial for your department, for the CEO and the board. This knowledge will broaden your impact and influence in the company quickly. Understanding the culture and the power dynamics will keep you from making mistakes that new people make. You do want to impress, but you do not want to go against the workplace culture too much before you understand it and are intentional about what you are doing and why you are doing it.

5. Put in the time and set your boundaries

Never forget that getting to a workplace, you might have to work a lot harder than you usually would because you are trying to catch up on your understanding of the company, the workflow and your colleagues. You are building relationships and creating trust. However, be careful not to pitch yourself as an over performer who doesn’t have boundaries. As much as you want to impress, you don’t want to set yourself up as someone who takes on everything and is willing to work crazy hours to get the job done. Better to under-promise and over-deliver than set yourself up as a miracle worker, unless that appeals to you. 

The pandemic has shown us all that burnout is a real challenge that has emphasized the importance of sustaining our mental health. As black women we have to be careful to not let the stereotypes of the ‘StrongBlackwoman’ and the ‘GoodGirlSyndrome’ trap us into overworking and burning ourselves out to prove we are worthy of a seat on the table . 

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5 Reasons Why You May Not Be Getting Promoted at Work.

I am making two assumptions in this post. The first one is that you want a promotion. There are sometimes legitimate reasons people may not want to get promoted right now. You might have decided that it is not the focus for you right now. You like your current job that you are in and want to take your time to establish yourself and learn more before you reach the next stage. You might be juggling work with other important personal goals and do not want the added responsibility of a new position. That is where you are and that is okay.

The second assumption is that you are doing your part. You are good at what you do, are continually developing yourself. You get good feedback, and you have a decent relationship with your boss and colleagues. However, the promotion still eludes you. In that case, here are some of the reasons why you are not getting promoted.

Reason 1: You have made yourself irreplaceable in your current position.

You would think that doing well in your current position could never disadvantage you, but it could. Working so well in your job such that it looks like no one else can do the work but yourself. Might make your superiors reluctant of removing you and leaving a vacancy in that post. You can do your job so well that no one else can do it better and most importantly, no one can imagine you doing anything else this well.

I am not advising that you should not do a good job but be careful of making yourself irreplaceable and therefore un-promotable.  See this from your boss’s point of view. They manage many variables and it can be a comfort to have a stable area that is doing well without needing their interference. Hence the saying ‘don’t fix it, if it’s not broken.

You may have positioned yourself to have job security but that is all you have done. You have not given people a reason why they should promote you. You are not showing that your current skills are transferable and applicable in areas with more responsibilities. You might have positioned yourself as a specialist that cannot be a generalist, which is essential for a leadership position.

Reason 2: You Don’t Punch Above Your Weight

You are not giving your employers the impression that you can do more than what you are currently doing. You are simply good at what you currently do but have you demonstrated your ability to do more? You might have heard about the concept of dressing for the job you want, and not the job that you are in. Although that is not key, it is also not a point that you should neglect. How we dress creates an impression about ourselves.

What’s more important though than how you dress, is how you think about your work and your position, in relation to the company. How can you connect the dots to bring more value to your team above just what is required of you? Taking initiative beyond your current job says to your employer this person is underutilized and is ready for the next stage.

Number 3: Being Operational and Not Strategic in Your Thinking

You know what you do, you do it well however you are not thinking at the level of your manager, or even better at the capacity of your CEO. You must imagine what these people are worried about and how your role or what you do can help lighten that load.

You have to think about how your role fits in your department. Think about where your department fits in with the company. Over and above that, you need to consider where the company stand within the industry, the country, the continent and maybe even the globe. This will up level your thinking. Which will in turn, influence what you say and how you do your job because you see yourself as a strategic part of the company and not just a worker filling a spot.

Number 4: Working Only on Your Technical Skills And Not on Your Leadership Skills

You are technical but unable to interpret what you do for the business and the other way around. I have seen this demonstrated quite well with IT people. IT people can be good at what they do technically yet often struggle to interpret their skills to speak to the business in a way that non technical people can understand. Even worse, not realising how technical decisions impact the business. The other challenge, specifically with IT professionals, is not displaying the ability to lead people who are not technical. It’s essential to learn how to lead a cross-functional team and manage the conflict and politics that result from leading people. You must show that you can lead and inspire a team to understand the work from a technical and a strategic point of view.

Number 5: Not Seeing Yourself as a Brand

The final reason is that you are just focusing on performing but not enough on your whole brand. Just as much as you need to be technically competent, perform well, you also need to work on the other skills that form part of your whole brand. This includes the confidence you embody, how you articulating and carry yourself. You should be able to see yourself not just as an employee but as a brand. What often helps is if you see yourself as a service provider rather than an employee. A service provider is always aware that they have to manage their reputation with the company who is a client.

For guided lessons, visit the ‘Reimagine The Next Stage of Your Career Program’ to help you position yourself for the next stage of your career.


The Unspoken Reality of Father’s Day

Fathers Day #Triggerwarning

My parents separated when I was around 5 or 6 years old. Before then, my father adored me. He created a photo album of all my baby photos and made a bracelet with my middle name on it. I don’t remember returning his affection though. I remember the sloppy kisses that smelled of alcohol and must have blocked memories of him being physically abusive to my mother. I only remember the one time when he threw a small radio at my mom and it hit me in the mouth and I still have a scar to this day. That’s just the physical scar.

Other scars are not physical but they did create a limp in the way I related to people. My father abandoned me and left my inner child creating this narrative that I am unlovable and therefore I should be what people want me to be so they won’t leave me.

It also meant that I was scared of being rejected so I struggled with putting up boundaries and speaking up for myself. I was scared of conflict because it might mean that someone might leave or not like me anymore and thereby trigger the wound of abandonment and rejection that I felt as a child. If my father whose seed formed me wouldn’t stay and love me, what more a stranger. This meant that at my workplace I couldn’t be assertive and show that I was ready for leadership because I was conditioned to please. It also meant that I left jobs rather quickly before anyone could find out who I authentically was.

It meant that I kept people at arm’s length so that I don’t feel any pain when they leave. It meant that I didn’t trust men and therefore rejected mentors who were wanted to help me on my journey. I ran away from successful people who wanted to get closer to me as well. Part of me figured the emotional burden of constantly meeting their expectations is going to be too hard a price to pay.

My father leaving meant that I couldn’t trust anyone to stand by me and had to rely on myself so I struggled to ask for help and when I was in management struggled to delegate. I couldn’t believe that I was good enough for someone to help me. It also meant I had to rely on myself and delegating was the same as asking. I couldn’t use and leverage the power of networks to advance my career because I was protecting myself.

It meant feedback and constructive criticism was a painful process because if people are not happy with me that equals rejection. It meant that even though I acted and it was in my personality to be extroverted, I was always guarded. I overworked to prove myself, I craved approval and sometimes lacked the attention to detail because I needed the feeling of submitting something so I can impress again.

It meant that I couldn’t be honest with people, that if people were in conflict around me, I would be the only one that both parties were speaking to. Meant that I broke people’s trust because I needed to please everyone and therefore could never stand in principle.

It is in this journey of healing that I learned how deeply my childhood wounds have affected my career and often delayed its upward trajectory. I created the Re-imagined workplace program for black women like me who have finally realised that they bring all of themselves to work. The parts that make them competent and successful, and the ones that hold them back.

THE INDIGNITY OF POVERTY – is your inner child okay?

One of the results of centuries of the racial oppression of black people is inherited poverty. Poverty is not only a physical condition, it seeps into one’s psyche and often defines one’s self-worth. Not having the right shoe and clothes because your family can’t afford them, defines the friendships that you can have, which definitely isn’t with the cool kids. The indignity of poverty means the shame of wearing other people’s hand me downs in their presence. 

Sometimes the inadequacy we feel as adults stems from the little girl or boy who couldn’t belong, fit in, because she did not have. Our inability to manage our finances is often rooted in the need to fill the void that was experienced by little us, it is to acquire for her what she couldn’t have. Our inability to reach for and aim towards the job we want is the inner chatter of the inner child who could never have what she wanted.

When we struggle to ask for help like for mentorship, resources and support; when we struggle to delegate, when we are fiercely independent and self-sufficient. It is often, the little girl , the inner child that remembers the indignity of being everyone’s charity case. Our inner child may be be driving our inability to receive from others.

Critical to creating the career that we want, without taking forever and burning ourselves out is asking for help and receiving support. Many black women who have attained success often credit the help of mentors, coaches and advocates. This may require the inner work of healing the inner child wounds so we can be free to receive in the present.

We are often told to be confident as if it is something that can be practiced like a dance. Of course, it can be faked, and that advice is also given to us – fake it until you make it. However true confidence comes from a healed inner child. An inner child who is reconciled to her birthright, her innate worth. That confidence is grounded and unshaken.

The reason for the popularity of the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman is that people realized that it isn’t enough to have the qualifications and intelligence if you can’t manage your emotions. That the best companies with the most intelligent leaders and best strategies cannot sustain the leadership that lacks emotional intelligence. So it is with building your career, just as it is important to be competent, qualified and effective. It is just as important to be emotionally whole.

Priorities healing your inner child, there is no shame in getting into therapy or coaching to help you. I have often found in my coaching career that once we have shined a light on these issues with a client and they start the path of resolving them; the other technical career strategies are often easier to implement.

Invest in your healing, it might be the lever that will accelerate your career.

Unsuccessful Interview? Get Over It, It’s Not Personal.

It comes with the territory that if one is invited to a job interview, rejection is always a possibility and rejection is not a pleasant emotion to encounter. That said, it doesn’t have to be a crushing experience.

I am reminded of my experiences with unsuccessful interviews. There was one in particular that I felt I met all the requirements of the position and may have even a bit overqualified.  The interview went great, I thought the chemistry was there and I was quite confident that I did well. That was until I didn’t get the job. I was really crushed. It was a real blow to my confidence and made me question whether I was really as good as I thought I was.

After some reflection I realized that I really did not know why I did not get the job. In my experience when I would be the hiring manager during a recruitment process. I have learned that there could be a number of reasons why a candidate is not chosen. Some of them have nothing to do with the competence of the said candidate. I had no reason to internalise a rejection that might have nothing to do with me. I at least did not have enough information to know either way.

Some of the possible reasons for an unsuccessful interview are the following:

·         The job has been advertised to legitimise an appointment of a candidate that has already been selected. The company recruitment policy might prohibit the appointment of a candidate without an interview process.

·         There might have been a candidate that is a better fit for the company culture or the management style of the hiring manager

·         Unfair bias on the candidates because of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

One of the reasons why we may internalize rejection from unsuccessful interviews is the media bias to only reporting on the success and brilliance of Highly successful people and rarely on their failures. Social media has also added to this condition where the trend is to only share stories or experiences of success and never of failures. This might lead to the assumption that those who are successful are perfect and have never experienced any failure.

The book Mistakes I made at work by Jessica Bacal narrates stories of failure and mistakes by very successful women like Cheryl Streyd bestselling author of Wild and Carol Dweck bestselling author of Mindset – The new psychology of success, among others. The book is important because it demonstrates that successful people also make mistakes and experience failure. Mistakes or failures do not have to define us and we, therefore, do not need to internalise them.

Psychology tells us that the subconscious mind, as a means of creating meaning, often codes certain experiences with certain emotions, in order to direct us to pursue or avoid similar experiences in the future. Often this association happens during childhood when we were not old enough to decipher the appropriate meaning of an experience. An incidence of rejection in adulthood, like an unsuccessful interview, may trigger an unresolved childhood wound of rejection. Resulting in a reaction that is out of proportion to the experience.

The ‘Good girl syndrome’, the condition where girls are raised or conditioned to please; may results in the fear of making mistakes and an unrealistic need to be perfect. This may result in the avoidance of situations that present the risk of criticism or rejection. If we allow ourselves to associate interviews with rejection, we might find ourselves avoiding the risk of failure and staying in unfulfilling positions or only applying for positions that we are overqualified for and will therefore pay us less than our skills are worth. 

If you have landed that interview and for some reason, it doesn’t go well, don’t allow one or a couple of interviews to serve as a measure of your competence. Don’t let your unresolved feelings of rejection hold you back from getting the job you deserve. Take a break, shake it off, and get back in there, your dream job may be on the other side of failure.