How to Handle the Emotions of Racial Injustice While at Work

How to Handle the Emotions of Racial Injustice While at Work

(Image: Thinkstock)
Freddie Gray is the latest case of a black male who died while in police custody, sparking outrage and riots in Baltimore, Md. (Image: File)

This also makes for a frustrating existence at work following recent events. James Baldwin once said, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” While this is true, we also know that bringing rage, negative emotions and hostile behaviors to work is not conducive to professional success. It only allows for more potential negative evaluations to be perpetuated.


The question becomes, ‘How do I balance this conflict with being emotionally aroused and threatened as a member of the larger Black community, while engaging at work productively and positively with my colleagues?’

Acknowledge, yet control your emotions. Emotions are real and they can be consuming. This is why it is important to actively acknowledge them so that you are in control of the emotions. Losing your cool or going off on a coworker about a news event is not ever going to be positive for your career outcomes.

Talk it out with like-minded people in your support system. When emotions are running high, dialogue and discussion can help to relieve some of the tension.

Don’t feel the need to be the racial representative at work. Everyone has a different racial lens that influences their thoughts, therefore, no one person can explain a universal Black view.

Know the norms of your work environment’s culture. If there is a norm in the workplace that includes not discussing political and social issues, then it is best to align with the norms of that culture. If you are in a work culture that supports freedom of thought and perspective sharing, then that is a safer opportunity to engage in the dialogue about societal issues.

You have the right to choose your response … or not to respond at all. There may be coworkers, Black or not, who feel like you should say something. Don’t forget that you control your stance, brand and identity at work. Don’t allow others to influence your decision about how to confront racially or politically charged conversations.

What are ways that you have managed your emotions and societal views at work? Share your comments and tweet me your perspectives at @DrAtiraCharles

Atira Charles, Ph.D., a New York native, is currently an assistant professor of management in the School of Business & Industry at Florida A&M University and CEO/Lead Organizational Consultant for Think Actuality, LLC. As one of the youngest business scholars in the country,Dr. Charles’ research, consulting, coaching, and training facilitation seeks to shed light on and further understand the unique narratives revolving around the manner in which individuals manage their differences while striving for professional and organizational success.