**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?