Despite the advances we’ve made in the workplace, it’s still commonplace that women of color receive less support at work. It goes without question; we can do many things or learn to. But, having the right support system is everything and, just like our propped counterparts, we need all the help we can get.
Surely, depending on how genuinely progressive your work environment is, the degree to which you feel or experience pushback and inequalities will vary. But for many of us, that knowing head tilt still occurs – more often than we’d admit. That moment when you intuitively realize that you are in some way being trampled on, passed up, overlooked, ostracized, insulted, tokenized, used, or othered in some way. And in an instant, your flight or fight response kicks in. Suddenly, running down a list of possible actions you can take at this moment. Shut up, or say something and risk being painted black.
Okay, so we’ve finally gotten the recognition we deserve. Now, we’ve transitioned to CEOs, owners, bosses, managers, and the such we’ve always been. What now? Do our challenges suddenly lessen? No. One might argue, they’ve only increased. Yet, the empathy and support in our new roles still fall short for us women of color. Why? Is it because we’re somehow always viewed as a threat? That despite our position as a bellman, security officer, secretary, model, rookie, teacher, or VP, we’re always a threat to the status quo. We change things. We force "business as usual" to take a harder look and make changes that make for a more inclusive work environment.
Yet, the unwieldy fact remains that we want to continue doing great work with people that respect and work with us, versus against us.
Which begs the question: How can you tell if you’re being respected by your team? What signs point to honest and authentic interactions with the support systems that you rely on?
Displaying a professional aptitude and teamwork can-do attitude is something we can all execute with a little practice. Sustaining a professional stance 8 or more hours per day, 6 days a week, is arguable, a little harder to pull off. Certainly, honest, punctual, hard-working, and understanding teammates that participate and give constructive feedback are a great start. However, I think, the truth lies just beyond that. Here are some other indicators that you’re truly being respected by your team.
They take time to get to know you as a person
Trust me, if I don’t respect you, let alone, like you, I won’t be joining you for mid-day lunches, happy hour, or taking you up on that invitation to attend your kid’s baptism. My time and thus my interactions with you will be held very close to the vest. Someone that respects you will go the extra mile to get to know you in a different light, away from your work environment.
They not only respect what you do but who you are as well
It doesn’t matter what country you hail from, the texture of your hair, the faith you practice or don’t, they don’t treat you differently because of who they think you are. But rather, they embrace your differences and view you as an equal; even if the lives you live are very different. It’s not that they don’t notice these differences, but they embrace and more importantly, respect them. No impromptu passes of your hand at my new hair puff or asking me to ‘smile more’ because I’d look less harsh.
They stand up for you even when you’re not around
People can smile pretty to your face and talk trash about you behind your back the first chance they get. We know this. Therefore, it's particularly telling of respect, if your teammates stand up for you in your absence. Think for instance, if they dispel rumors about you around the office that are untrue or when your mother harps on the number of corrupt, rude, and big-ego people work at your company. If they stand up for you by putting in a good word about you or praise your leadership, it’s safe to say they respect you.
They are not afraid to step to you professionally on a personal matter
Not to be confused with being so comfortable that they just plop down in your chair and start gossiping or insisting you tell them details about your long weekend. No. Here I refer to your teammate while showing respect for your time and attention, feeling comfortable enough to come to you to ask for time off, a change in shift, or to disclose a personal matter that might impede their capability to do their job to their best ability. Or that they look to you for guidance and advice. For example, if I ask for time off or request vacation time and prefer not to disclose to you the reason for my request, it’s because I clearly don’t want you to know. I simply don’t have an open and honest relationship with you. One could go so far as, I don’t even trust you, let alone respect you enough to tell you.
They show up and out, even when nobody is watching
They’re about the team and as team lead, they want you to succeed. Your success is theirs. You’re able to notice this in their actions around the office and away from the office. Their vocal about your leadership abilities and walk away from meetings with you smiling, relaxed, or excited to get back to work. They check in on you regularly and let you know if they’re on schedule to meet deadlines. They don’t want to let you down. Not because they fear you.
It’s safe to say, actions are the biggest determinant in deciphering whether or not you are respected by your team. No matter your job, how you look, or where you come from, you need to feel supported. We women of color especially. And, you need to be able to count on your team to provide that support.
Someone that knows how to turn their professional meter on makes for a reasonable start, but there are a few tell-tale signs to help you determine if your team turns it on just for the job, or if it’s a respect that goes beyond that.
Do you feel your team or colleagues disrespect you? Why do you feel they do or don’t?
Are you working more towards being liked or respected?
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