Quantcast

The "Working Twice As Hard" Mentality Doesn't Work

The "working twice as hard" mentality has failed generations of black people.

Her Voice

I have worked at some of the largest corporations in America. I have also worked at some of the best law firms in this country. By most accounts, I would be considered "successful".

For the most part, I felt prepared to work in corporate America, but I must say, I was not prepared to feel some of the inadequacies, loneliness, and - if I'm keeping it all the way 100 - anger that I felt while working in predominantly White corporate environments. I mean, after all, I was basically told my entire life that as long as I worked twice as hard as everyone else, I would do well and climb the corporate ladder. But what I have concluded is that working twice as hard doesn't work and we should stop giving out that advice.

Growing up, I was told, "You have to work twice as hard to get half," or "You need to make sure you don't make mistakes," or better yet, "Never let them see you sweat, cry, or look weak." But after looking at the abysmal numbers of Blacks in the C-Suite, I have concluded that although working twice as hard might help select individuals gain success, bearing the burden of the "twice as hard" mentality has not helped increase the numbers of Blacks at the top of the corporate ladder. So, I think it's time that we start giving out different advice -- work hard and if your company doesn't appreciate you, learn all you can, and then strategically position yourself to own your own company or at a minimum, leave that company.

Black woman leading work meeting Plan for success instead of just dreaming about it Getty Images

Numbers don't lie, and we are still underrepresented in almost every major professional field, but the numbers of Black professionals are particularly dismal in the STEM, legal, and medical professions.

Why? Simple. Many of the organizations in which we work were never built with us in mind – not us as Black professionals anyways. Many of us work in corporations, firms, and organizations that started at a time when Blacks and Whites couldn't share a bathroom - let alone an office space. So, it is no wonder that no matter how hard you work as a Black professional, it is possible that you may still be undervalued, underpaid, and overlooked.

Could this be fixed? Here's the thing, if organizations really wanted true diversity, where racially diverse professionals felt valued and free to be themselves, they could obtain that. But in order to effectuate the change companies need to put in place systems by which individual bad behavior could be policed; real systems that punish things like implicit bias, racist remarks from superiors, and inequitable reviews across professionals of different races. But, until organizations put these systems in place and punish those that perpetuate inequality within these organizations, there will never be true racial diversity.

So what's our takeaway? We will never have power if we are seeking it from organizations that were never built with us in mind. Our power is found in knowing who we are absent the approval of unjust systems.

Instead of teaching our kids to work twice as hard to seek the approval of people and companies that simply don't know how to appreciate and respect Black brilliance, let's start teaching our kids that racist systems will never be able to fully value them because many were never built with them in mind, but they are exceptional whether it's recognized or not.

Consider this, if I built my house for people that are three feet tall, could a man that was five feet tall enter my house? Maybe, but it would be uncomfortable and after a while, he would have to leave. Why? Because he would start experiencing pain from being in an environment that was not built for him. Where would he go? Well, probably back to his own home.

Black women serious work Nothing will stop of us now Getty Images

We need to find our own homes.

So, are we helpless? Absolutely not. Find your voice. Believe in yourself. Get centered and ask for wisdom in navigating systems that were never truly built for you in the first place. And, if you want to dominate those systems and organizations, you can, but there's a cost that you have to be willing to pay. Nothing's free.

Here's what I don't think some people understand: when you are Black and every single day you walk into a company where the only other Blacks you see are working in service positions, and not as your professional peers, it weighs on you in a way that is often not discussed. It tells you that you are an anomaly, but overall your people aren't "good enough" to do this job, and, if I am being all the way real, the implication is really that maybe you aren't good enough either.

Before owning my own firm, I remember making a conscious effort, daily, not to internalize the subliminal messages that a predominately White workspace spews out, but it was not easy. And to work in that type of an environment for a certain amount of time requires you to sacrifice a piece of yourself that I am not sure many are willing to sacrifice. What piece? Your voice.

Getty Images

You are expected to be grateful for a seat at the table, but you are often not invited to talk.

God forbid you want to call out racism or inequality – it can impair your chances of rising to the top. We need to prepare Black professionals early for the very real battles they will face when working in systems that were built at a time when Blacks were only expected to do one thing: serve and service White folks.

At some point, we have to expect greater and not entrust our worth to unjust systems. I learned this the hard way, but in 2018, I left my close to $300,000 a year cushy corporate law firm job to open my own law firm, Mobile General Counsel, which helps entrepreneurs to legally protect their businesses with trademarks and contracts. I also provide gender, generational, and racial diversity trainings to corporations and colleges across the country. The fact that I've been able to help dozens of minority-owned companies is a major plus of my new path, especially since while working for large Chicago-based law firms, none of my corporate clients were Black-owned.

Even though I left corporate America to be an entrepreneur, I don't think we should have to choose between a hostile corporate work environment or entrepreneurship. Companies should work harder to make all employees feel valued, but until they do, don't you worry, know this:

Your brilliance is beyond measure. Your swag stays on one million and despite what your colleagues, superiors, and peers may tell you, you can do anything that you put your mind to.

In case no one has told you today, you are valuable. You are doing a great job. You matter. The world needs your voice. Your ideas are earth shattering and your presence is felt.

If no one else has said this to you, hear it from me, I respect you and I hope that you keep your head up and eyes on the big picture when working while black.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

Featured image by Getty Images

Originally published March 8, 2019

This article is in partnership with Xfinity.

Those who have experienced an HBCU homecoming understand the assignment. Students, alumni, and family of a Historically Black College and University gather to partake in the excitement of celebrating the heritage and culture of the school. It's a time of joy, honoring traditions, and for some, reflecting on the good ol' days. Homecoming weekends are spent eating well, laughing plenty, and enjoying the sights; and there is plenty to see! (Spoiler alert: Sleep is not on the syllabus.)

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

Summer is coming to an end, and it's officially time to start the fall activities. And with the start of a new season comes new movies and shows. One, in particular, is the final season of Netflix's Dear White People, airing September 22. A great thing about this show is that it sparks healthy conversation. Past seasons have explored topics like double consciousness, sexuality, and the Me Too Movement, but it's done it in a way that still allows the show to feel relatable and fun.

Keep reading... Show less

Period pain. Lawd. Could there be something that is more annoying, especially since it happens every 28-30 days? Like, c'mon. If you've ever wondered about the science behind it all, basically, we need our uterus to contract, so that it can shed the lining that accumulated, just in case we conceived in between cycles. And so, what basically happens is, the prostaglandins levels in our system increase which trigger inflammation and also period pain, so that the blood is able to flow from our bodies.

Keep reading... Show less

One of my favorite things about the changing seasons are the new vibes and new energies that change welcomes with it. September represents a transition from the white sand beaches, bottomless brunches, and undeniable romantic vibes long nights, festivals, and impromptu road trips often thought of when we think about the summer. In its place comes romanticism in a different approach. Pumpkin spice anything, the excuse to cuddle up, and the leaves of the trees turning warm shades sparks joy in a different way as fall begins. Perhaps what I am most excited about though are the 2021 wellness trends that come with it.

Keep reading... Show less

A few days ago, I was having a conversation with some folks about songs that should've been official singles yet never were. One of the ones that I shared was Mariah Carey's "All Alone in Love" (a song that she wrote when she was only 15, by the way). To me, it's a perfect way to intro this piece because I have had enough personal experiences and counseled enough people to know that it is very possible to be in a relationship with someone — and still feel quite alone in it. Not because your partner doesn't love you. Not because they're up to some totally f'ed up shenanigans. It's just…even though you signed up for a true and lasting partnership, somehow you now feel some of the very words that define what being alone can feel like: unattended, detached, unassisted, semi-compassionless and perhaps even abandoned on some levels.

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews

Exclusive: Lucky Daye Is Doing It For The Culture, From The Soul

Every so often, an artist comes along who seems to be a physical manifestation of all that we are.

Latest Posts