I’ve worked in the corporate world for my entire career, and it can be a strange and challenging place. It’s had its ups and downs, but I’ve always been able to manage the corporate lifestyle without much struggle. Part of corporate life is feedback, and the 360 review. It comes in many forms and is called many things, but essentially they all involve various people you work with providing anonymous feedback about you. I had mine recently and it was…eye-opening.
On my team, I’m the only person of color. I’m also one of 2 people on my team who doesn’t have direct experience in our project area, out of a team of 12. I was hired specifically because I didn’t have the direct experience, to bring new ideas and perspectives as we improve processes. I jumped in, learned a ton, and made some impressive contributions in my first six months on the team. I even received an award from my VP! I thought I was doing great…until I received my 360 feedback. For positives I was listed as a strong problem solver with out of the box ideas who could relate well to others. Cool, I agree with all that.
Then I got my negative feedback and that’s where my assessment went way left. I was listed as very opinionated, and intimating in large meetings when I ask lots of questions and am vocal with ideas, and I’m only relatable in 1-on-1 settings. Apparently I should also stop asking so many questions and having so many ideas, until I know more. And finally, I should stop making old jokes with a teammate because I make other people feel uncomfortable…even though the person I’m joking with thinks it’s hilarious.
I can’t even lie, when I heard this, I was both pissed off and hurt at the same time. To date, no one has said any of this to my face. Not my manager, teammates, or partners on projects. So where is all this new feedback coming from? Why is it only shared in an anonymous survey instead of coming to me? And why am I still waiting for the person for the strongest comments to come talk to me in person, as they were encouraged to do by my manager?
Cause I live and work in passive aggressive Minnesota, that’s why. And nothing says passive aggressive like waiting until you have an anonymous venue to share all the stuff you don’t like about someone. What this really comes down is I am too opinionated, too assertive, and much about business. I am too damn good at my job, especially to be a Black woman who doesn’t have any direct experience in the subject area. And I’m a Black woman who refuses to kiss anyone’s ass or break my neck to play the corporate game to get ahead. I take care of my business and I don’t allow folks to walk all over me the way they want to in the office. Well boo hoo kids, cause it’s only going to get worse for you.
It stung at first, but my assessment was eye-opening for me. It showed me that no matter how great I am, I will always be less than to folks, because of my race and my gender. I can be excellent at what I do, and it won’t matter, because I’m an outsider and different. They want me to sit back and be quiet but that’s not what I’m about. I’ll keep on being who I am in the office…until it’s time for me to move on to my own business. Until then I’ll just be the opinionated Black woman in the office.