Personal, Work

Woke in the Workplace

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**The word “woke” is increasingly used as a byword for social awareness**

If you know me at all, you know I am VERY passionate about a number of social and human rights issues. I double majored in women’s and gender studies and sociology, so learning more about marginalized voices, identities, and communities is my life. I would always be that person in the classroom ready to debate or willing to correct someone when they have some seemingly problematic comments. I am proud to say that I am confident in my views and feel as if my education helped me cultivate my spirit of activism. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing….if you agree with me. But if don’t agree, that might be a recipe for disaster. Especially in the workplace.

A few months ago, I had an interview for a full-time position at a firm located in Atlanta. I interviewed with three people: an associate, an upper level executive, and the CEO. The first two interviews were wonderful. The conversation was flowing, I was answering questions well, and I felt confident in my ability at such a firm. The CEO was the last interview and I felt confident going in and ready to finally secure a post-graduation opportunity. However, the interview took quite a turn. The interview took place the day after the 2017 NFL Superbowl and Mr. CEO asked his final question: if I was a Patriots or a Falcons fan. I explained that I was a Patriots fan even though I don’t care for Tom Brady that much anymore. Mr. CEO was intrigued. Why would that be your favorite team, but you dislike the quarterback? I explained how even though Tom Brady is the best out there, he has said a few things in the media that I didn’t care for, including his comments on “not worrying” about issues of social unrest. I blatantly said that such a comment was incredibly privileged and that decent people should care about the gross mistreatment of others. Mr. CEO shuffled his papers and said thanks for coming. He starting walking towards the door and said that they would follow up with me. I never heard from anyone in the company ever again, even when I emailed them.

Even though I pretty confident that the company was not for me for a plethora of reasons, I was still upset that such a comment made me lose such an opportunity. I told my mom and she responded with “there’s a time and a place for everything,’ which honestly upset me more. I shouldn’t have to hide what I care about! My capabilities as an employee shouldn’t be overlooked because I’m woke! That’s not fair. But then again, my mom was right. The world isn’t fair, not everyone is woke in the same ways that I am, and the work environment is not necessarily the best place for me to showcase my views.

It’s a balancing act of determining when and where to share your views. The workplace should be viewed as a professional environment where respect for others is a priority (unless you work someplace that is very clearly in line with your views). Not speaking out at every given moment or choosing to keep such views under-wraps is not a cop out or makes you less passionate/woke. Rather, it means that you respect the views of others and do not necessarily feel compelled to push your own agenda. But then again, you shouldn’t hide your passions. Caring about such issues makes me who I am. If asked, I will share and I will still speak out on the mistreatment of others or unintentionally problematic actions.

Activism in the workplace is a balancing act. I want people to know who am I and what I stand for, but I don’t want my work capabilities to be over-shadowed by my rants of social injustice. Are woke and the corporate workplace synonymous?

 

9 thoughts on “Woke in the Workplace”

  1. The very sad lesson that i learned is that the answer to that is no. Not even with the most liberal minded non-poc’s. This is a day to day struggle for me! Working in several corporate environments, i’ve had to sort of ease everyone into my wokeness. Not saying that I hide how I feel about the current social-political climate that we are facing, but I have learned how to detect high levels of white fragility. Depending on how much I care about the opportunity I then decide if it’s worth suppressing my wokeness until necessary. It’s extremely sad that that has to happen but we all know how easy it is for a black woman’s wokeness to be confused as “anger.” But it will all be worth it when I become the corporate Olivia Pope lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YASSSS! Don’t let them stop you. Luckily, I haven’t had any extreme incidents at places I’ve actually been hired at, but I can definitely sense when people expect me to be the angry Black woman or expect me to say things off the cuff

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  2. Being woke in the workplace is also hard because people who aren’t woke almost treat you as if you’re the crazy one!

    Love your content and I’m looking forward to reading your future posts!

    Stop by sometime,

    Mena from noirerewritten.com 🌷

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Honestly, I’m big on the “speak the truth, even if your voice shakes”. You shouldn’t have to hide your beliefs, thoughts and opinions. Personally, I’m big on sharing my views if the subject is brought up. Can’t change the world staying silent, right? Keep doing you, you’ll find a position that respects both you and your views and you’ll wonder why you even gave this company the time of day💃🏻💛

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Honestly, what the CEO wanted was somebody who wasn’t going to be outspoken in the workplace politically, because that can interfere with the business aspect of the work relationship. Looking at it from his side, how many projects gotten sabotage mainly because folks were expressive of their personal views in the workplace and created a toxic environment. He probably thought your forward ness on the subject would be forecasting of potential internal clashes of ideals and he wasn’t trying to have those issues. Not fair indeed, but professionalism is expected of employees, even if management at times are not. The safe response would have been, “I am a fan of the game and I was excited to see a great finish” Nothing more or less. It’s a delicate dance, but the safer your responses, the more drama it saves you and your workplace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good point of view. I never really thought of my views as a threat because I believe I’m believing in what’s right or just. But that’s an excellent point, it isn’t that they disagree or are horrible people, but maybe the way I shared such views.

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  5. Courtney, I have experienced a situation similar to yours. I expressed my opinion to my boss about professionalism and respect, then I started to experience a different type of treatment from people at work. I enjoyed reading your blog. It is a shame how the CEO treated you after you expressed your opinion. I’m sure you will find a company that you will enjoy working for and they will appreciate and respect you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no! It’s such a balancing act and you never really know which comment will be the one that results in being treated differently. Luckily, the places I’ve actually been hired at have been wonderful so hopefully the trend continues. Thanks for the love!

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