Can I be honest real quick? I'm sick and tired of society holding a "superwoman" complex on women of color (especially Black women). While yes, we are multifaceted, strong, and fearless, we also experience moments of vulnerability, confusion, and anxiety. Because of the superwoman complex that the world has placed upon on us, sometimes it makes it difficult for us to ask for what we need, because a "superwoman" doesn't need help, right?
Oftentimes as the minority in the office and in spaces where men (and people that don't look like us) are the majority, we never want to appear weak or inadequate - especially when we are in positions of power. However, it's time out for us feeling like we have to be a superwoman every day, and suppressing our feelings. Sis, when you're really strong, courageous, and fearless, you understand the power in being honest and asking for what you want and need. And sometimes the exact thing that you need is a personal day off for the sake of your sanity and mental state.
It doesn't matter how high up the corporate ladder you are, or how lit your job title is, we all need a break (or two or three), and that's okay. It's normal, sis.
Recently, we spoke with several fearless women that are leaders in their own space. Here are their thoughts on how you can communicate when you're not at 100%, how you can ask for a mental health day, and if you're in a leadership role, how they've communicated and asked for their own mental health day when needed.
Photo by Kenny Bundy
"One thing that has worked for me and people I manage is building an intentional space for me to talk about not only how projects are progressing, but how energized or drained they are with specific pieces of work. When it comes to having your needs at work met, take the driver's seat.
"Normalize talking about how projects, tasks, and even teammates are landing with you. If you have a weekly or bi-weekly check-in with your manager, add a section that supports you talking about what's on your plate and how you're feeling about it. So often we get caught up in the 'doing'.
"Some practical prompts that you can include to keep things constructive include:
- This week, (example) about this project energized me, but (example) about this project drained me.
- I enjoy working with (teammate) but would like to roleplay a difficult conversation I have to have with them about (problem that came up), can we make some time for this?"
Courtesy of Christa Clarke
"If my direct report needs to request a mental health day or two, I don't require much. I prefer to receive advance notice so that I can adjust my responsibilities accordingly and minimize the impact of their absence. Also, I appreciate them getting their house in order beforehand. For example, reschedule your meetings in advance, block your calendar, delegate important or time-sensitive tasks to others, etc.
"However, I understand advance notice isn't always possible. We don't give advance notice for physical illness! I don't need all the specific details of why. When I have a general understanding of what is going on, how it's been impacting your work, and ways I can support you, I'm empowered to be a better boss who can effectively support you before and after your return."
Courtesy of Jasmine Farrar
"In my experience as an HR Business Partner, there is often an underlying assumption that we are not to be leveraged as trusted advisors for employees at all levels; however, this couldn't be the furthest from the truth. HR Business Partners (HRBPs) are stewards of company culture, liaisons between organizational leadership and individual contributors, and advocates for all employees. I prefer that employees feel comfortable coming to me about any issues that may arise and that I present myself as accessible and approachable to help foster that dialogue."
Photo by Kenny Bundy
"As a Senior leader, it is often hard to feel like taking some time for self won't lead to more work when I return. Recently, I learned the power of a vacation memo.
"Ahead of asking for some mental health days, I prepare a vacation memo that I send to my manager, people I am on projects with and sometimes external partners. The memo gives those I'm working with a clear sense of the status of projects and who they can contact while I am away. I brief my assistant and manager on the memo, as they are typically the points of contact while I'm out, and then I go ahead and take my time off.
"The vacation memo strategy not only supports clarity of workflow but also eases my anxiety so I can fully unplug. I recognize that I am a key player in the work, there is no way for me to continue to be if I am not well."
Courtesy of Christa Clarke
"I am an advocate for mental wellness in the workplace. I meditate in my office, often placing a sign on my door that reads, 'Meditation in progress. Do not disturb.' I've also requested mental health days when needed. Unfortunately, no matter how much I'm an advocate for mental health in the workplace, many of us may not be lucky to have bosses or work at a company that is open to the idea of mental health days. Therefore, it is important to understand the workplace culture in which you work before asking for a mental health day.
"At a previous company, I didn't believe requesting a mental health day would be respected. On days where I just couldn't bring myself to get out of bed, I'd just call in sick. No detailed explanation was given.
"It is our right to be able to use our sick days without probing questions. So, don't be afraid to do so.
"In another workplace, I maintained a great, transparent relationship with my boss. We openly discussed our stressors and mental state, and have even left the workplace for mental health breaks to grab an ice cream or a treat. When I need to request a mental health day, I simply make sure my workhouse is in order. I inform my boss that I need to take a day or two to work on my mental wellness.
"Sometimes, my mental health day is working remote to change my environment. Other times, I am unplugging."
Courtesy of Jasmine Farrar
"With respect to mental health in the workplace, it's so important to understand that we cannot operate at our fullest capacity if we aren't taking care of ourselves from an emotional, spiritual, and physiological standpoint. We usually don't hesitate to share when we are sick or in need of time off to attend to a doctor's appointment. These types of conversations should extend to mental fitness as well. Company cultures may differ in terms of the level of transparency or candor amongst managers and employees but the concept of needing a mental health day should not be foreign.
"When I think of all the things that are going on in the world around us, especially with respect to people of color, we owe it to ourselves to ensure that we are continuously engaging in self-care practices.
"My best advice for employees and leaders are to work on building authentic relationships so that when conversations like these arise, they feel more natural. Leaders, check in with your employees from time to time and move beyond status updates and project deliverables in one-on-one meetings. It's okay to ask how folks are doing? How can I help support you? Many times, the work environment is predicated upon the leadership style and they should help to model and reinforce the importance of overall well-being."
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Featured image courtesy of Duanecia Evans