African American Employees Cannot Afford to Be Labeled as an Angry Black Male or Female

Be cautious about expressing your feelings

(Image: iStock/patrickheagney)

 

Dear Sheree,

My manager informed me at the end of my last review that I would be included in a group of employees that is going to receive executive coaching. I am a 36-year-old African American male who has been with the company’s IT department for six years. All of my reviews have always been rated “exceeds expectations.” There are few African Americans who have the expertise in the area I work in, and most of the new hires are now Asians. I believe the reason I am being included in the coaching program is due to my losing my cool with another person in my department. It has crossed my mind that I am either being singled out or perhaps this is a way of determining if the company wants to keep me around.

Ken

Dear Ken,

It is a very positive sign that your employer has recommended you for the executive coaching program. Your excellent performance on your job led to your being selected. In addition, executive coaching is usually limited to high potential leaders.

As a minority, I want to caution that “losing your cool,” with a co-worker can have harsh ramifications. Usually, strong emotions that are expressed by a person of color can play out differently depending on how you handle yourself. Some African Americans have learned the mainstream way of communicating their feelings without showing they are upset.

Expressing yourself in a corporate structure is perceived as less threatening when you lower your voice and speak slowly. Speaking in this way communicates to the listener that you are being thoughtful with your words. In our racially divided world, it is usually deemed more appropriate for Caucasian males to express strong emotions. Often, when a Caucasian person exhibits strong emotions it is viewed as being assertive, whereas when an African American does the same thing, it can be perceived as aggressive.

An African American professional must be concerned with being politically correct and not being labeled as an “angry Black male or female.”  It is prudent and wise to be cautious about expressing your feelings in person or in an email.

In my book, Intuition: The Hidden Asset Everyone Should Learn to Use, this is my description of how easy it is for the emotion of anger to get out of control. “We live our lives operating within our own internal database filled with our own set of resentments, hurts, and anger. Our system crashes when an incident takes us over the edge. Most of us have so much stress and tension that we do not know our emotions have reached a boiling point until we start to explode.”

In a work environment, whenever you intuitively start to feel that a conflict is developing with another person it is best to:

  1. Shut off the conversation and suggest that the two of you re-think your positions and discuss the issue at a later time.
  2. Stay aware of your feelings and when you first notice the feeling of anger coming up, learn how to immediately shift your emotions to being peaceful.
  3. Watch your nonverbal communication and do not allow your face to show how you are feeling inside.

Disagreements in the workplace should be viewed as unique and need to be handled carefully.

The invitation to participate in the executive coaching program shows that your manager wants to help develop you into a more effective leader, address potential problems, and give you growth opportunities.

Your employer is not alone in investing in executive coaching for its employees. According to a Harvard Business Review article, from GE to Goldman Sachs, corporate investment in coaching for employees is part of annual spending of roughly $1 billion in this area.

Every great athlete has a coach to help them achieve their goals. Rather than looking at this as a punishment, view this as your employer investing in your future growth and development.

These are the benefits you can gain from executive coaching:

  1. Help to expand the communication and relationship skills required to increase profitability and productivity.
  2. Adapt to rapid change.
  3. Respect for people of diverse backgrounds.
  4. Align behavioral changes.
  5. Identify what is limiting your progress.

My sense is that you cannot afford to be complacent about participating in this program. Everyone who is viewed as an integral part of a team must be open to new learning. Keep your eyes and ears open and find out who else is being included in the program. Take time privately to make a list of the changes that you would like to achieve with your executive coach.

 


Intuitive Life Strategist Sheree Franklin helps people to find the courage to release their life challenges in order to live in alignment with their true self.  She is the author of Intuition: The Hidden Asset Everyone Should Learn to Use. To learn more about Franklin’s book, go to www.amzn.to/1UxlWLG.  Visit her website www.shereefranklin.com.