22873766It’s no secret that I am not a corporate type person.  I thoroughly enjoy the freedom of being a contractor and running my own business.  I get to meet so many wonderful people and long term connections in my dealings and I get the luxury of variety.  That means I never get stuck in one place for too long unless by choice.  I get in, do what I do and get out.  I love it.  Every now and then, I run into a situation where someone feels threatened by me (nonsense) or I get false promises of heading projects.  Let’s face it, I take contracts based on the ability to flex my skills and challenge myself.  Rarely do I let much get under my skin.

But I don’t want to talk about me.  I’d rather address the collective.  How many of you have been promised something at the office and then find out you were either thrown under the bus for someone else or not included in the decision to go in a different direction?  It happens a lot in corporate America, and it can be really discouraging.  But how you handle it determines a lot.  Sure, the easy thing to do is throw a temper tantrum, or your boss. But in reality, you just can’t do that.  I know you WANT to, but you can’t. I’ll be honest, the “old me” would be livid and would let the boss have it (that’s why I’m not in corporate LOL).  But these days, I choose to be more strategic in my thinking. 

You have to look at the potential consequences of acting out.  There’s a chance you demotion, being placed on warning or probation, or even of being fired.  That’s never a good thing, of course unless you are looking for an out. but even then I would advise against acting out.  Instead, make it simple on yourself.  Start by documenting.  Always document every conversation and keep every email and voice message that has anything to do with what was promised to you.  That’s your leverage and your proof.  Make sure in each conversation, you ask the other person (or persons) to clarify points so everyone is on the same page. Then repeat back what was said and ask if you’ve got it right.  Don’t rest your hopes on anything unless it’s in writing.  I’ve found over the years that some people’s word means absolutely nothing. I believe things when I get it in writing.

If you’ve been slighted or passed over, after you’ve calmed down, request a meeting with your boss.  Prepare a list of logical questions that will make him or her deal with the situation and give it to you straight.  Don’t allow them to double talk or wiggle out of an explanation.  Don’t go in there like you’re the District Attorney, but by the same token, expect honest answers.  You may or may not get them, but expect them none the less.  Ask if there was something you did or didn’t do that contributed to the change.  If there was something, find out how it can be rectified.  Ask your boss to reconsider.  If you’ve been a proven talent at your company, come into the meeting with documentation to back it up.  Show your boss why you are the one for this project or lead position.  The more compelling ammunition you have, the better you can make your point. The calmer you are and the more confidence you exude, you might just be able to turn things back into your favor. 

A special note for my sisters. You know automatically, regardless of what the relationships may be in the office, Black Women are labeled as hostile or attitudish.  Even the most friendly woman is viewed as having the “potential” to get ghetto when necessary.  Personally, I hate that stereotype. But I never give anyone the satisfaction of saying “I told you so”.  It is vitally important that sisters maintain their cool.  I have a friend who is a high level director for a major company. One day, she called me sounding stressed. She unloaded about her day and how the offending party was rude and disrespectful to her.  But she maintained her professional demeanor. She had a colleague sit in on the call with her just so she’d have a witness. She said when she left the office, she sat in her car very upset. When we spoke I told her she needed to be proud of herself. I am known (in my past days) to have a jump off attitude when necessary. But there’s a time and a place for everything. I learned to pick & choose my battles.  I don’t do disrespect very well.  With that phrase, she felt better.  See, she’s the only Black Woman (in a power position) in her group.  She felt like nobody would understand what she was feeling.  But I did. She saw the situation for what it was and decided it wasn’t her and she moved on.  Sometimes we don’t have that outlet, the luxury of having a friend who understands and can talk us down in the heat of the moment.  So we need to always be on guard and mindful of the “time and place.

The bottom line is you cannot allow people to walk all over you. In corporate you must command a respect and do all you can to keep yourself in the forefront of people’s minds as a hot commodity.  Don’t allow things to go unchallenged. If you’re a diligent worker and a super start producer, protect that status by standing up for yourself and constantly producing “A” game work.  Corporate America is one big strategic game. The better you learn how to play the game and position yourself for success, the further you’ll go.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham