You’re ambitious and educated, yet a victim of corporate politics. After years of scaling workplace hurdles, many black managers are questioning whether succeeding in the corporate environment is worth it. If you too are confused, the book Soul in Management: How African- American Managers thrive in the Competitive Corporate Environment puts it all into perspective. Chronicling the experiences of more than 100 black managers, the book offers a concise guide for corporate newcomers and veterans. The authors, Richard F. America and Bernard E. Anderson, reveal that although the catchall phrase “diversity” echoes throughout corporate America, it continues to be drowned out by the din of racism.
This pragmatic, easy-to-read survival guide advises African American managers not to waste time confronting discriminators, but to sharpen their skills, build professional credibility, make contacts and either move up or move out. In this excerpt, learn the truth behind some of the most common workplace fallacies.
African American managers seem prone to accept seven fundamental misconceptions about race in the corporate environment. Unfortunately, the following fallacies are merely smokescreens that cover up the real problems:
Misconception #1 1. Corporate self-interest should reduce discrimination and lead to fairness. It’s often asserted by academics, journalists, and senior managers that corporations should remove racial ceilings and should practice affirmative action because the status quo wastes talent and is bad for the company and bad for the country. It’s certainly true that wasting talent is bad for your employer and for society. But the way this is usually presented is based on a shaky assumption: that merely pointing this out will be constructive and will change behavior.
That’s unlikely, because those white managers who still discriminate in assignments, rewards and promotions don’t define what’s good for the company or country the same way you define it. They want to maintain the racial statue quo or even turn back black advances made 50 far. You can see that clearly by reading between the knee of many conservative corporate commentators in Forbes, Fortune and the Wall Street Journal, arguing against affirmative action and “preferences.” So, calling for justice by arguing that it’s in the self-interest of those who perpetuate injustice won’t work. They don’t agree that what you prefer is in their self-interest. They decide their own self- interest, not even the interest of the company. And it’s based on maximizing their personal advantages over you — individual and group, economic and noneconomic.
It’s naive and useless to appeal to their presumed rational motives and ask them to play fair “because it pays,” They don’t think it pays. The message falls on deaf ears. And sending it demeans you, because it comes from weakness and supplication. The premise that discriminators really only hurt themselves and would be better of accepting diversity may be true, but you’ll never convince the discriminators. Don’t waste time and energy trying.
2. Ceilings will be removed if you complain. You hear a lot about ceilings. The popular sense is that black managers seldom get beyond middle management. And racism explains this