See You Beyond Your Job

I stood there thinking I can't believe things turned out this way. I am that guy, you know the one who takes great pride in getting it right the first time, and always exceeding expectations. At least I always thought I was that guy.

The week even hell rejected

Ever had one of those weeks where it seems like nothing went right? Well, that was this me this week. It's annual review time at work and let's just say that my performance appraisal didn't go anything like I thought it would. I imagined going into my manager's office to receive a shiny new bonus and accolades to boast about in the break room. Instead, I left thinking WTF just happened?

I could go into details. Like maybe my car tire went flat, the washing machine stopped working, or the kids got bad grades at school, but why bother. The fact is, no one really cares about my sob story or the tiny violin I'm playing my sad song on. By this point, the old me would be knee-deep in snack cake papers and empty hot Cheetos bags so since my fingertips are not red and my breath does not smell like warm Star Crunch I consider that a win.

Learning during the storm

This week did have a bonus. This is the part you care about. I discovered I am more than my job. Not only that but that my self-worth is and should be wholly independent of my career. You care because that means it's true for you too.

Isn't that groundbreaking! Ok, fine it's not but it was news to me and I suspect it is news to some of you as well. I never realized how much my self-worth is tied to what I do for a living. It sucked to realize that many of the positive things I think and feel about who I am are directly connected to something that I have no control over, other people's opinions. Why the hell did I think my VP title made me who I am? I wasn't always one and I think I liked me before.

Have you felt this way before?  Do you wear a subtle smirk when you tell people your job title, or how long you have been in your profession? C'mon I know you do. I saw you talking a bit louder than normal on your mobile phone when you came into Starbucks, so we would all know just how important you were while you ordered your low-fat latte with skim-shenanigans. It's ok. Look good feel good, I get it.

The why helps the how

Do we blur the delineation between professional performance and personal value because we spend more time at work than we do with our friends and families? Is there any wonder that somewhere along the way we misplaced our ability to separate our personal pride from out professional pride? It's true, one side does drive the other, but one is representative of your being and the other only represents who you are in a particular capacity. "You may lose your job someday, but you’ll still be you"

At work, you are a resource to a company, in life, you are an autonomous entity. How you drive your corporeal being is where you should center your self-esteem and pride.

For men, this is especially true. We feel our value is intrinsically connected to what we offer in the workplace which translates to how effective we are at handling our fiscal responsibilities. When we do poorly at work its traumatic. It affects the way we feel about who we are.

Take back your power

Don’t mistake what you do for a living for what you offer as a human being. We sometimes get busy making an impression we forget to be what want others to think we are.  Status is inconstant, just like wealth. When you are old and rocking a pissy diaper, people will remember how you treated them, and not what you filled your résumé with.

[bctt tweet="“The biggest reward in life isn’t financial benefits. Those things are great but they don’t fill up your life, only living a life of substance will. Maya Angelou taught me an incredible lesson. Your legacy is every life you touch.” O. Winfrey" username="Rexdmundo"]

Today, I want you to know that you are more than your job too. Don't wait until you are sucking wind in a performance review to figure out that you are still an awesome person regardless of what the management team thinks about you.

They say each one teaches one, so this is my contribution.


The Best Street Style From New York Fashion Week: Day 2

Did you even go to New York Fashion Week if you didn’t wear a beret, tiny sunglasses, or both? Based on the street style yesterday, no. Statement accessories were the hero pieces of the day. The controversial chapeau kept popping up in green, in red, and in fur. As for the sunglasses, people took their cues from Rihanna and The Matrix. There were colored lenses, teeny-tiny angular pairs, and oversize owl-like glasses. Pro tip: Pair them with a fanny pack for extra clout.

Puffer coats were everywhere, but the best was a full-length one with Frida Kahlo printed on the back multiple times.

The Diversity Squad Fails at Black History Inclusion

The morning news

Someone, please save the workplace diversity squad. With my sincerest effort, I aim to be positive because they give it their all. The well-meaning “culture club” wants to represent the greater good. If you don’t hear it from anyone else, I want to personally thank you. This morning when I arrived at work I was greeted by an innocuous email touting “our commitment to diversity in celebration of black history month”. The celebration was in full effect, complete with images of people I have never seen before, who look remarkably like the ones that came with the picture frame I received as a gift this past Christmas.

Diversity squad, it’s not your fault, but your efforts to impact corporate culture will always fail. Despite your willingness to donate your time putting up culturally sensitive decorations, googling all the (in this case) black history snippets you can get your hands on; your good intentions with never be met with fervor or interest you envisioned.

Where things go wrong

The sentiment the squad conveys is never the message the participants receive because the connection was never available. They will never reap the rewards of their effort because what they never had genuine support from the organization leaders. The leaders ask the “culture club” to place a ninety-nine-cent square of gauze on a wound that requires stitches. No amount of cultural sensitivity/ awareness can create a salve for the wounds of employees who stew in a homogeneous culture that asks them to wash away their inheritance the other 11 months of the year. Diversity, essentially black history month, amounts to a box to be checked in their eyes.

This in no way discredits that earnestness of the participants or the organizers, but it does create a pertinent question. Where is the diversity the rest of the year? When diversity, also known as cultural inclusion becomes an item on a to-do list rather than an authentic effort to support, promote, and understand a culture other than default culture the result is a terminal failure. Employees that do not identify with the perceived cultural norms are expected to conform. Companies create policies on top of policies intended to govern and mandate this behavior.

What inclusion requires

Recently, if you prove your customs are tied to your religious beliefs some accommodations can be made but if they are traditions from an under-recognized culture you are out of luck. For example, I know several people who were asked to change their hair, despite the requisite maintenance and care is in place. I have been present in meetings where side-long glances and silent judgment used to mold and restrain employees into uniform behavior. Micro-aggressions and pressure are very different from maintaining decorum. It is unnecessary to demand uniformity among employees to create a positive and creative work environment. However, uniformity is the name of the game when you plan to maintain your avenues for progression and success.

I notice the slack-jawed shady commentary delivered as thinly veiled back-handed compliments. Things like “you are so passionate, or you see things so differently”. Black men are rarely afforded the opportunity to exist outside who they are. We are often, one of few in the office, and thus a representation of black people. This includes stereotypical remarks, expectations, and questions. You may ask yourself, what does this have to do with culture, black history month, or even diversity. The answer is clear when you are on the receiving end of an observation that has nothing to do with your performance as an employee and everything to do with who you are socially and culturally. The ideas surrounding who we are as individuals are merged with who we are, thus rendering the distinction inexorable.

We get it

Passionate, in this context, is a decidedly vague expression used to convey contempt and describe the recipient as aggressive or having a self-righteous attitude. Telling me that I see things differently is the type of no value statement issued when you intend to dismiss the ideas of others, especially when the purpose of working in a team environment is to see things differently. Weren’t we hired for our ability to solve issues creatively? The entire situation boils down to judgment. When your way of being, or your appearance or your inherent culture exists as an outlier, the message is “you are unfit”.

There is a solution, or at least the beginnings of one. Start at the top. We very rarely see the senior leaders participate in diversity festivities. When they are required to take the same sensitivity and awareness training as the employees below them in rank the evidence is not apparent. Change in any organization begins at the top. Difficulties with diversity are pervasive because real change requires remapping individual thought processes. Unfortunately, internal change is not something that can be controlled easily or validated. People very often do and say one thing and believe quite another, which makes it difficult to know if there has been any authentic improvement. For now, increased participation and awareness across the organization is a good start.

Thank you for taking the time to read and share this article. This topic deserves attention, specifically in relation to the season. There is yet much work to do, but it's going to take commitment.