Tai Lopez is a financial wizard that currently sells business advice and self-help books on improving a person’s career. His most famous book is 67 Steps. One of Tai Lopez’s central tenets is finding mentors. Networking is at the forefront of his philosophy. Lopez sells numerous books and internet programs on how to make good first impressions.
Lopez is not the only self-help guru for success in business that puts a premium on networking. Wade Alters sells a program to inform students on how to determine which people offer the highest benefit and how to get in front of these high-value people. How to win friends and influence people originally published in 1936 first detailed the importance of building a support group. The book describes how to handle various interpersonal issues and common pitfalls to avoid.
This type of advice is useless for black people. A black person’s ability to interact with co-workers depends far more on their co-worker’s mental programming on racial issues than any personality flaw or lack of social skill. The racial complications of interpersonal relationships do not mean a black person should not attempt to interact and get along with coworkers and superiors. It is to say that blacks have very little control over how these people ultimately view them. There needs to be specific career help for blacks that addresses the specific issues common to our race.
I have been working in the field of Engineering for twelve years. I have always held non-supervisory positions. Here are a few pieces of advice I would give to a new engineer of business professional on how to interact with coworkers.
1. Focus on the mechanics of the job first
The most important thing on a job is doing it well. It is important to explicitly say this because of the idea that relationships matter more than performance is the basis for most “success-in-business” advice. It assumes that there is no difference in the performance of employees.
As a black person, your performance will always be hyper-analyzed. That is why your performance always has to be excellent. Take time to fully understand what is being measured in each task requirement. Find out where information is stored and how to find out how problems have been solved in the past. Remember most of the people will not help someone that is black and if they do they will see your need for help as a burden.
2. Do not compare yourself with others
Remember the struggle of black people is unique. We are entitled to make mistakes and have a difficult time. If co-workers or friends of other races begin to berate you or your performance, analyze what was said and evaluate if it is applicable. Make the correction where needed and if needed. However, understand that success in Corporate America is a challenging endeavor for a black person. You are going to make mistakes, and the consequences will be higher than you white counterparts. Never let the difficulty affect your core self-esteem.
3. Human Resources is not your friend
Inevitably, you will have a serious problem or disagreement with a co-worker. Sometimes the issue will be racial, sometimes it will be a personality conflict, and other times it is a personality conflict with a racial aspect. Avoid taking this to human resources. I have seen many people get angry and march someone into the human resources office. Human Resources is not there to handle personal disputes between co-workers, HR is there to protect the company. HR will document the incident and make sure to free the company from liability; HR will shift the blame to the individual employee in a court case. If a worker frequently goes to HR, the company will perceive them as a liability and work to get rid of the person before he or someone around him files a lawsuit.
It is important for blacks to understand the psychology of conflict and how to de-escalate an argument. Don Beck’s work on value meme’s and business psychology is an excellent resource to understand conflict. Transactional Analysis psychology is another resource that will allow a person to recognize, address, and avoid conflict. The last resource I will mention in Non-Violent Communication in regards to business. Keep conflicts with people at work to yourself. Most people view blacks as belligerent and argumentative and will use information on your conflict to reinforce their perception.
4. Other black people at work are not in a position to help you
Most black people are intensely afraid of losing their job. Their experience in Corporate America has shown that they have a small margin of error before serious consequences arise. Even black people in supervisory or human resources positions are diligent in demonstrating that they do not show favoritism to blacks. The power structure of most companies is completely white. If one or two black people make it into a supervisory position, they know everyone is watching them and that if they make a mistake, they will be easily demoted. Therefore, most black people will not give inside information on jobs to apply for or give pointers on how to improve. Most black people are working diligently to keep their position.
Unfortunately, there is still an unwritten rule that only allows one or two black people into a supervisory position per company. All the black people know they are in competition for a few coveted positions. No one is going to roll out a carpet and let another person pass them.
Black people will be a moral support. When building a network of black professionals, that is what you will get from the situation. A black professional network will not result in insider information. Many black professionals are kept “out-of-the-loop” and don’t even have this information even when they are in a position to know.
5. Build a network of friends outside of work
Corporate America is unfulfilling by its very nature. Most jobs, especially entry level jobs, are monotonous and unrewarding. Having a vibrant social and family life will facilitate the positive reinforcement that is lacking on the job.
I recommend artistic communities for building a social network. If there is a local theater, poetry, or dance community attempt to join. Art can be a great outlet for venting frustration. Black people have historically been instrumental in the development of art and individuals involved in art generally, have respect black people. Differences are not always looked at in a negative light.
Corporate America is completely different for white and black people. Even non-black minorities have an easier time. Keeping your job in perspective is the best advice for blacks. Your job facilitates your life. Your core self-worth is not your job. Keeping the proper perspective will allow a person to see things as they are.