1. Nepotism and White Privilege
Structural racism and sexism within society has meant that opportunities to gain access to the “right” schools or professions has been closed to the majority of people of color for generations. Although recent gains in education and professional advancement have made rising to the top possible for some minorities and women, it is nevertheless difficult for them to create the connections needed to enter the highest levels of management.
People of color too often feel that they have to hide their true selves at work, according to “Vaulting the Color Bar: How Sponsorship Levers Multicultural Professionals into Leadership,”a new research report from the Center for Talent Innovation.
More than 35 percent of African-Americans and Hispanics and 45 percent of Asians say they “need to compromise their authenticity” to conform to their companies’ standards of demeanor or style.
Forty percent of African-Americans — and one-third of people of color overall — feel like outsiders in their corporate culture, compared with 26 percent of whites.
3. Assertiveness Without The Perception of Anger
African-American men and women struggle with the conundrum of how to be assertive without courting the historic stereotype of the “angry Black.” They often worry whether they are perceived as being demanding and confrontational. As a result, people of color start to be less of who they are at work.
Overall, people of color are 37 percent more likely than whites to feel that they need to compromise their authenticity at work to conform to conventional standards of executive presence.
“You’re like a chameleon, constantly changing the way you are,” observes an African-American network television manager.
4. Lack of Critical Performance Feedback
Studies show that “minorities aren’t given the critical feedback they need to succeed on the job because people have concerns about being seen as racist,” says Valerie Purdie-Vaughns, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University. “Meanwhile, they are consciously or unconsciously evaluating you against their own personal stereotypes about Black people.”
This creates an incredibly hostile work situation, where people are perceived as something that they may not be. In addition, without the accurate feedback, performance does not improve at the expected rate.
5. Blatant Discrimination
In the words of federal researchers, the “playing field is still far from level.” A recent government study of employment data concluded, “African-Americans continue to suffer the most severe extent of intentional job discrimination.”
The study, which examined 200,000 of the nation’s largest and mid-size companies, found that overall African-Americans have a 41 percent chance of being discriminated against at work, no matter what their level or industry. Black professionals and managers in corporate America stand a nearly 30 percent chance of being discriminated against on the job.
6. Five-Year Meltdown
Some successful Black 30-somethings joke about the “five-year meltdown.” It takes about five years after business school for Black executives to feel as if they are trapped in a cage, as their optimism dissolves and hope shatters. It usually begins when they notice the slow pace at which they are moving up the ladder. Then comes the continual battle to earn respect in the office as a Black executive. In addition, they face the daily struggle of trying to fit into corporate environments that reward conformity – a formidable task for any group that stands out.
The internal torment can be stressful. Young Black executives can still succeed in the office, but their spirits can become damaged. They may become angry and fed up, the culmination of which occurs when they start asking themselves the question: What am I doing?
There is nothing on this list I have not experience. Glad to know I’m not the only one.