The workplace

Do You Understand Me Now?

She sat behind me typing. She giggled, emitting the low sounds of superiority. Whoever this email is for she is giving them the business! After a couple minutes of listening to the satisfaction coming from my boss’ cubicle, I chose to continue with my work rather than speculate who and what the email was all about.

I connected my earphones to the Bluetooth on my phone, pulled up the latest episode of my favorite podcast, and went on with my day. Twenty to thirty minutes later I noticed I received a couple of emails. I thought nothing of it. I continued reviewing the required change transactions due before lunch and took a few moments to review my inbox before I headed out.

Email from Petty Patti

The verbal assault began with, “I think it’s time you work on your communication skills”. She continued with, “Several of your coworkers informed me that while you do a great job and they have no complaints about your performance, there are issues with clear communication when they ask questions and the responses you provide,”. She covered every word in this email with cotton-candy sarcasm and arrogance.

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Did I mention she sits in the cubicle behind me? Yea, that’s right 4 feet away. Wouldn’t this be more productive as a conversation rather than an email? What kind of non-combative answer can you give to a shitty email like this one? The flippant way she delivered her feedback indicated my response would not be well received, she already decided my point of view was irrelevant. This bullshit is standard procedure with Patti.

She is the person who has the answers to all life’s mysteries in her tiny alabaster hands and will share them with you for a price. The price, however, is the complete surrender of your previous experience in exchange for her knowledge. Her way is the only way.

To my credit, I did not respond to her email right away. Patti had tunnel vision, but this was the first time I was a victim. For now, I would like to keep my piece of shit job. This meant I couldn’t cuss her out like my spirit commanded but had to find a strategic way to address what I felt the real problem was.


Of course, it's just me

I work in a homogeneous environment. In a department of 125, I am one of four Black men. I mention this because it’s at the core of this issue. Much like the diversity, processes and defined modes of communication are narrow within my department and company. There is little to no deviation in “the way someone should do things”. This has nothing to do with quality standards. It specifically relates the “communication” issue to personal style.

You may be feeling like “here we go with another of those speeches rife with righteous indignation regarding racism or discrimination in the workplace”. My response to that is, you’re damn right. If you believe these “speeches/ conversations” are too abundant in today’s culture this is likely where you should exit. Bye.

This is not my first time being ensnared in the codified feedback loop. Hell, it’s not even the second time. It is, however, the first time at this company, and with an obvious delivery. Much to Patti’s dismay, I could not give her the attention or the response she hoped for. She milled up and down our aisle all day, smiling and passing to give me the opportunity to stop her about the garbage she emailed me. I smiled and continued to work as if I hadn’t seen it. Just before I logged off for the day I sent Patti a calendar invite. I wanted to discuss and resolve this face to face as it should from the beginning.

This time, I took the advice of the experts. I wanted an entire twenty-four hours to figure out how to cuss her the fuck out in professional terms while keeping my job. Overnight I considered why the accusation insulted me. How was it possible to have two advanced degrees in communication yet still retain “communication issues”?

I wondered who told her that there was an issue, or was this confidential someone her duplicitous way of expressing her issues with me without revealing herself? I thought of just about every excuse to avoid making it about race, but there was no other explanation.

Patti and I communicated more than anyone else and there were no other instances of miscommunication between myself and other coworkers. Many White people assume that all people of color assume any type of feedback is racial bias. I like to make sure to check my bias before going there. Alas, there was no other reason.

Mentor who?

The next morning, as scheduled, I met with Patti to understand my “communication issues”. I gave her the floor and the opportunity to tell me what this was all about. She contemplated it overnight as well and came armed with an arsenal of vague reasons and remnants of veiled examples. Things like “I often come off aggressive when I explain ideas and my formal tone in written communication exhibited an attitude of inflexibility”.

Petty Patti whipped out an example of two emails written by Perfect Peter. Peter was after all her golden boy and an exemplary employee. He was easy to work with and never kept up a fuss. She often overlooked Peters ineptitude and his relaxed approach to completing tasks timely. He smiled all the time, and that is an important trait. Who knew appearing friendly covered a multitude of missing skills? “Perhaps, if you are willing, Peter can mentor you to bridge the gap on some communications skills you are missing.

At last, it was my turn to communicate with Patti. Patti did not consider having a variety of personalities and communication styles makes a team strong. I wondered if she believed my skills are weak because I use strategic language to communicate my objectives.

I asked her if she ever proofed any of the emails she received from Peter since I had yet to receive any communication from him that did not contain at least three typographical errors. I asked Patti if she will accept that perhaps I was not the one with the problem and that if possible to meet with those teammates who had issues with my “style” so we could work towards a better understanding.

Patti determined that this was another example of being confrontational and I should consider some mentoring. Patti and I reached a permanent impasse. She failed to realized I love myself and feel compelled to stand against poor treatment. I have no desire to be like or mentored by her protégé Peter.

Different does not equal inferior

Traits perceived as confrontational in Black men are authoritative or confident in White men. Direct communication is not a positive attribute in conjunction with my color. My intellect is not an asset unless accompanied by excessive smiling or subserviently communicated. The reality is it’s just too fucking bad.

Poor Patti, I am not sure what she will do with me. I have no intention of reducing myself to make her more comfortable. There will be no fake smiles or bending and scraping. Oh no, Patti may need to measure up. She should now manage and think strategically to make sure that my performance does not impact her. Potentially, she may even need to go onto the intranet to find the appropriate HR terminology so she can write me up! What will she do?

It doesn’t matter. Petty Patti, who has a management title because she remained employed with the company for the last eighteen years, will never diminish my self-love. All I’m thinking of now is what’s for lunch.

Always be willing to fight for yourself, and defy what they expect.


Why I Didn't Just Buy a New Desk

I really do need a new desk. It is hard enough to plant my butt in the seat and get started, now I need stuff. My desk is too low, my monitors aren't big enough, and the padding in my office chair is shot to hell.  Every time I work on my to-do list this is all I can think of and not my goals. It 's amazing I ever get anything done at all, but I never give up the fight.

 Surely, everyone wants to be comfortable when they try to channel their creativity. We need everything to be there! O.K maybe not everything but most things right? Do you think of everything that's wrong when you start a project? Lately, I often ask myself why I can't focus on the task and not the tools, or is there is something else going on with me that I have yet to identify.


Think about where you are “right now”. Decide if your “right now” is on the path toward the future you see for yourself.

Maybe it's not just the project

Say you want to do something simple like start a new exercise plan. Maybe you begin by getting on the internet to look for a great piece of fitness equipment, some new exercise clothes, and maybe even an affordable gym membership convenient to your schedule. All those things are great, and in the end, you may need some of them. In the beginning, however, all you need is to get started. You have shoes already, you can walk outside, your neighborhood park can be your gym until you build a habit you can stick with. The same thing is true with your projects and anything else you want to accomplish.

There are all sorts of studies that talk about learning styles and things you can do to motivate yourself to stay on task. There are even findings that support procrastination as a way channeling your creativity. The truth is it was never really about the desk or the tools. The issue is feeling unsure about my ability to create and execute my goals. It's nervousness about how my work will be received and no doing anything means delaying failure, in my head at least.

Reality Check

For me, procrastination does force me to get things done when I have no other choice, but I am often dissatisfied with the result. I congratulate myself for getting it done in the little time that I allotted myself, while also thinking I could have done better if I had more time. That's part of the damn problem. I did have more time. I waited until the last moment because I told myself over and over that I would only need thirty minutes to type up my article.

It's true that I can complete a 1200 word article in thirty minutes. It will be mostly coherent, make some good points, and contain at least one relatively astute observation. Will it be great? No. It may not even be something I am proud of and that is the source of my fuel to do better!

It’s best that you realize that you can begin accomplishing your goals with what you have today. It will also help you if you find which set of circumstances create the most successful outcome for you because we are all different. The most important thing you can do is understand what you are doing today may not be working for you, or you probably would not be reading this article.

[bctt tweet="Change begins where you are not where you want to be and not with the things you think you may need. Unlock the shackles of “if I just” and get started with “ today I can”." username="Rexdmundo"]

You already have everything you need to accomplish the next step in your journey. Just get off your ass and knock it out!


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.


Why it's Hard to Mind Your Business

Have you overheard a conversation you wish you didn't? The really personal kind, so personal and dramatic that you want to walk away but your thirst keeps your tuned in. If you haven't, here's your chance.

O.K. listen, last week while sitting at my desk, I craved for something delicious that didn't taste more like the wrapper than it did a snack. I decided to hike down the little convenience store they maintain in my office building to keep us from leaving the building and deciding not to come back. Maybe it's for our convenience, but I have my own suspicions. I was sleepy at my desk, and I already inadvertently smashed the semicolon until there were three rows of them. On the way out to the elevator it happened, I got my golden opportunity to be nosey without scrolling through Facebook. It was all I could do not to stare. I waited for the elevator with my back turned to her, thinking 'What he do', but I couldn't bring myself to ask.

When I got home all your stuff was gone!

"Didn’t you say that you were always going to be here for me (yelling with a trembling voice)? I try to talk to you all the time but you don't listen, how is this my fault (followed by explicit name calling)? I can't believe this shit! When I got home you already moved your stuff, you are such a coward Thomas. Real men don't do that kind of shit"!

Crap the elevator came and I had no choice but to get on. Continuing to stand there is far too obvious despite my propensity to want to hear other folks business. When I came back upstairs, she was gone. I decided to find her and give her some unsolicited advice, even though I don’t know the entire story. You know, I really do like to be helpful. I walked up and down the aisles until I located her cubicle. When I found her desk, I decided to mind my business. The look on her face said that she had been through enough and I didn't want to risk the HR complaint so early in the year.

Instead, let's have little chat about some of the things I wish I could share with her. Being let down by things that our loved ones do is inevitable. Eventually, you have to figure out how to assess the damage and create a plan that will allow you to heal and move on.

Do you hear yourself

Heartbreak does not have to equal devastation. What I mean is you can hurt without allowing your life to fall apart. If you feel like you cannot carry on after a break-up, or a failed relationship, you have given away too much of your independence/ autonomy.

This happens when you stop listening to your inner-voice and decide that compromise equals acquiescence. Take back your strength. Listen to your inner-voice. You should hear yourself more loudly and more clearly than anyone else. Remind yourself of all the times you failed, and all the times you have successfully recovered from that failure.

Be honest with yourself

Honesty allows relationships to flourish and helps mutual confidence. People often pretend to feel confident rather than actually being confident. The "show" only distracts you from the truth, and ultimately destroys manufactured relationships. After all, you can only fool folks for so long. The mask eventually comes off.

In the beginning, we share the best bits of our personalities, and it's those things that attract others. The everyday conversations about preferences and perspectives reveal the details that allow our prospective partners to see us how we see ourselves. We may say things like, I'm not good at reading, or I can’t cook very well. Innocent admissions express our insecurities but they also reveal our character. If you are honest in the beginning, you know your partner chose you for your authentic self.

Always be your biggest fan

Being yourself can feel like a risk because we spend far too much time constructing cocoons of fiction that don't allow much room for authenticity. Honestly, we don't believe it, so don't be foolish enough to think that others are any less savvy. The only way to heal the fear of being your true self is internal, so start soon.

No one thinks what you want them to think about you. It’s really none of your business what they think. Be more concerned with being more of the person you envision for yourself. At some point, you have to get your shit together. The negativity we all experience from time to time is normal. If we didn’t have a bad day occasionally, the people around us would probably punch us in the face. No one is that happy.

One positive step at a time

Make a conscious effort to stop limiting your awesome. Say "I can't less or remove "I’m no good at" conversations. Rehearse these things and not fiction, and you will see your truth personified. Keep on trying to figure it all out, it's where we all are.

It is my sincere hope that something you read here will uplift and encourage you.


6 ways to say suck it!, you cant kill my dreams

What happened to the dream

I used to dream of one day being a celebrated singer. When I was in junior high school, I used to tape (telling my age) all the latest songs from the radio and play them back over and over. I would sing them all until I perfected the sound of my favorite tunes. Eventually, I worked up the nerves to try out for a play at school. I decided that I was going to be the star of...Grease!!!

I have spent a large portion of my life paralyzed by the fear of looking silly. To be honest, it was a fear of what people thought of me and what they may have said about me. The effects of this compulsion currently play an active role in my decision-making process, albeit to a much lesser degree.

Laugh if you must


If you know me, there are more than a couple of reasons I was never going to be the star of that show, but I never realized the hurdles I faced. In the end, I didn't get the part I wanted. The director relegated me to a non-speaking, non-singing role. Mrs. Little, wherever you are today, I want you to know that you suck ass and I will never forgive you for your poor assessment of talent!

I'm totally over it now though. ?

For a long time, never let anyone see or hear me sing anything. I wanted to sing desperately, but I wanted to save the remains of my pride more. This one event changed the trajectory of my stardom and now I'm here giving advice to you lovely readers. I have learned that at some point you have to be willing to tell others to suck it and go for what you want. You only have yourself to blame for the dreams you never chase.

The 6 ways to say...

  1. Negative assessments from others reflect their insecurities rather than your shortcomings: Never value anyone's opinion over your own. Feedback is one thing, being a hater is quite another.
  2. Being anything less than yourself is acting: Fake it if you want, you are the only one who has to live in your skin.
  3. You have one shot at the life you want: I think this is self-explanatory.
  4. So what if your worse case scenario comes true: There is nothing you can't handle, have faith in yourself.
  5. Ditch the dead weight: Bad friends and naysayers are not worth the maintenance, skip it.
  6. Not everyone wants the best for you: Be careful what you share with others. Some people want you to succeed and some want you to fail. If you aren't sure about what side they are on, it's probably the wrong one.

You deserve anything you are willing to work for. Get out there and go for it.