Commentary

10 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Career

May 31, 2017

A terrific short piece from Essence crossed my feeds, and I wanted to be sure to pass it along so you can share it on yours. It reminded me of how a little well-timed advice can go a long way.

While 10 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Career sounds like standard fare for women’s magazines - it's a list of ten ways you might be accidentally sabotaging your career - it actually does triple duty.

First, it elevates the voices of local experts who need the validation this type of media exposure can bring. All of them are women, with plenty of women of color in the mix. Second, the stock photos of diverse black women in the workplace are a delight. They normalize diversity at work in all its routine glory, including diversity of hair, if you get my drift.

But while the piece offers necessary coaching to young employees of color without making race an explicit issue, the theme of race always hangs in the air. Why? For young leaders and first-time contributors, the cost of sabotage can be so high. Number six reminds us to not skip the office parties, for example. Friendly, straightforward advice until you consider that employees of color, who may already be operating under a wage and bias deficit, need to be more mindful of networking opportunities. Number eight cautions against overcommitting to assignments as a way to earn favor. Burn-out is bad, but failing to highlight your own strengths is worse. “Instead of diving into a task merely because you're uncertain about saying no, offer to help find the best resource while stating your desire to tackle something else that's more suited to your skill set and career aspirations,” the article advises. If you’re working in an environment that may not be prepared to see your full potential, it’s important to keep your own development top of mind.

Also, don’t be the annoying “read-receipts” e-mail person, whatever color you are. Really.

These are the kinds of tactics that can smooth career paths and soothe frazzled nerves. They also make for great micro-mentoring opportunities on LinkedIn feeds and over office coffees. Share and add your own self-sabotage avoidance tips to the list. Mine? Make sure you know what your “listening face” looks like. Trust me, it’s probably not what you think.

On Point

As President Trump threatens to exit the Paris Accord, a reminder that climate change is an imminent problem for the poor

One of the most comprehensive reports on climate change and poverty was published by the World Bank in 2015. According to their experts, climate change will send an additional 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030, nearly half of whom live in India. Part of the reason will be the impact that a warming world has on subsistence farmers, who are uniquely dependent on weather and whose crops are easily lost to pests and blight. Some 5% of crop yields could fail by 2030, and that’s before the epidemics like malaria hit. But all vulnerable communities are in harm’s way. Other researchers say that residents of poorer urban neighborhoods are more likely to suffer from heat-related ailments due to climate change.

World Bank

The environmental advocacy sector is almost entirely led by white men

Although this report is designed specifically for environmental organizations, many of the prescriptions it offers would work for any group that wants to improve their hiring and retention efforts. But it’s also worth a look for other reasons. For one, it’s easy to get the impression that the environmental NGO community is falling badly short in their understanding of and commitment to diversity. As of 2014, only 3% of the top three positions at environmental NGOs were held by people of color. And there seems to be considerable disagreement on the definition of diversity within the sector, and a lack of alignment between recruiting firms and their NGO clients. This quote on page 12 seemed emblematic of the bigger problem: “Surprisingly, several CEOs — organizational leaders who are purportedly forerunners of diversity efforts — had difficulty recalling specifics about what diversity initiatives were in place in their organizations.” The report was created by Maya A. Beasley, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut.

Diverse Green

Poverty is not a mindset, at least, not the way Ben Carson thinks

HUD Secretary Ben Carson has garnered a good bit of attention for his theory of poverty, specifically that it’s a “mind-set.” If you take everything away from a person with the right mind-set, they’d be prosperous again within a year, he claims. The Upshot column has a good rundown on the research into poverty, and it shows he's partly right but mostly wrong: Poverty causes diminished thinking, not the other way around. Research shows that the condition of being poor consumes a lot of the mental bandwidth a person would typically need to do productive tasks. People under financial strain perform worse on cognitive and reasoning tests. People who are poor are distracted, don't sleep well and suffer from internalized shame. “There’s definitely evidence that poverty — particularly childhood poverty — does affect things like persistence, your executive functioning, your ability to control attention, to inhibit emotions,” Gary Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell told The New York Times. “He’s correct in identifying that there’s this link. But I think he’s got the relationships backwards.”

New York Times

First person: How signing up for food stamps changed my view of poverty

D.L. Mayfield does an admirable job describing the extraordinary privilege she enjoyed even while qualifying for food assistance programs, and encourages people to reconsider the damage that the proposed Trump budget cuts will have to the most vulnerable families. She and her husband needed food support for a variety of reasons: After a difficult pregnancy forced them to rely on expensive formula; while being temporarily impoverished as they both pursued graduate degrees; the fact that they chose to support people doing missionary work in refugee communities. She acknowledges the profound advantage her white status provides her, and the family safety net she’s always had access to. “Many, although certainly not all, immigrants, refugees, and people of color find it difficult to thrive in a country that clings tightly to ideas of fierce individualism and exceptionalism. Even more troubling, they are often personally blamed for the systemic inequalities that exist,” she says. And she takes the evangelical “money” community to task for compounding the problem by calling poverty a mindset.

Christianity Today

The Woke Leader

Toni Morrison on chores, bad bosses and work-life balance

The New Yorker’s June double issue has many treasures, but Toni Morrison's tender essay is a good place to start, particularly if you’re reading it during your workday. She begins in her childhood, remembering the quiet but profound pride she felt in being necessary to the lives of the adults around her. For one, she was affirmed by the approval she got when she did her chores. “The pleasure of being necessary to my parents was profound. I was not like the children in folktales: burdensome mouths to feed, nuisances to be corrected, problems so severe that they were abandoned to the forest.” Later, as an adult, a conversation with her father about a problematic boss helped her put the nature of work into an even sharper focus. “You are not the work you do; you are the person you are,” was the advice she heard.

The New Yorker

A tense public conversation about race raises many questions and a path to redemption

Until last Saturday, Paul Beatty was best known for being the first American to win the Man Booker Prize for his novel “The Sellout,” a racial satire set in South L.A. But after his appearance at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in Australia, he may be better known for surviving a tense, hour-long interview with a white journalist that made many in the audience take to Twitter in protest. Writer Steph Hannon was there and says the book was going to be hard to discuss. “It is packed with potential landmines that a white Australian interviewer, no matter how well-intentioned, cannot be in the best position to navigate – and during the conversation on Saturday it felt as though [Michael] Cathcart detonated them all,” she says. One example: “Do you think that people become black? Do they have to learn what it means to be black?” Beatty responded. “Ask yourself the fucking question, man … just think about it for a fucking second. Did you learn to be white?” Hannon caught up with Cathcart later – who is a serious and progressive thinker - and gave him the opportunity to unpack his many misfires. “As a journalist you’re then thinking, how can I give him the opportunity to talk? … I was trying to open doors into difficult places so that we could talk there.”

The Guardian

Hey, hey, not everyone can Monkee around

People of a certain age will not be surprised to learn that The Monkees, best remembered now for their wacky Saturday morning kids show, was once one of the most popular bands on the planet. This short video takes us back to 1967, at the height of their popularity, when they decided it would be cool to have a talented unknown open for them on their breathlessly anticipated national tour. “Somebody said ‘you gotta come down and see this incredible guitar player,’” recalls drummer Mickey Dolenz. It was young Jimi Hendrix, earning his chops in Greenwich Village. They signed him on the spot. Unfortunately, the audience of mostly pre-teen white girls didn’t take to Hendrix’s hard-rock style, and promoters called it one of the greatest mismatches in pop culture history. Hendrix quit after seven shows, “using an elaborate gesture” to end his run.

Laughing Squid

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