If you are a Black woman who is new to the corporate world or even an experienced professional here is some advice. Beware! More and more Black women are moving into management roles and sadly people still rely on stereotypes. Forget about “The Help”, “Corrina Corrina”, “Pinky”, “Gone With the Wind” and “Ruth’s Journey” mammies. People see a Black woman and instantly believe she must become the office mammy. I’ve been through it and have rejected it.
What do I mean by the office mammy? She is the Black woman in every office who everyone runs to, to regurgitate their problems. She is expected to please the masses while receiving nothing or even worse, co-dependence in return. Like mammies of the past she is supposed to be the office gossip who knows everyone’s business. She is fiercely protective of office policies, management and the company but that sentiment is not returned.
She wrongly thinks kissing ass is networking. She acquires power because she has created relationships built upon co-dependence and one-sided loyalty. However, that power is generally limited because there is no incentive for management to move her up. Because of this she is usually stuck at the same place for years and out lasts everyone else in the office. She becomes resentful. She always hates on other Black women in the office who will not share her fate as the office mammy. Those Black women symbolize everything she is not. They are ambitious, goal orientated, self-reliant, well-connected, well-rounded and base relationships on reciprocity and respect and not necessity.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself to see if you are the office mammy:
- Are you asked to sacrifice for the company while others are not?
- Do you find yourself placing the needs of coworkers and the company before you and your own family? This includes your health and /or wealth before your own.
- Do people make you feel guilty for taking a sick or vacation day?
- Do people believe you are not supposed to have a social life outside of work? For example, you are on vacation and you get a call from the office but others do not?
- Do you work for a company where people take your needs for granted?
- Regardless of title, do you find yourself doing the grunt work while your counterparts do not?
- Are you expected to observe and report the behavior of other employees to your boss or supervisor even it is not a part of your job description?
- Are you expected to be unflinchingly loyal to your position, boss and company even though it may limit your career opportunities while others are not?
- Are you expected to working long hours but unlike other employees, you are not receiving credit for it?
- Do people come to your office with their problems but do not reciprocate?
- Are you expected to solve all of the offices problems?
- Are you expected to reassure the esteem of others while they do not reciprocate?
- Do people call you strong, sassy, and motherly at work and because of this justify their treatment of you?
- Do your coworkers see you as someone who is ”safe” and will not threaten their position?
If this the case, it is time to make a change for your own well being. You deserve success. You deserve acknowledgment and respect. You deserve happiness. People will only treat you the way you allow them to treat you so shut it down. Here is how to avoid falling into this role.
- Put your needs first. Yep, I said it. Get self-full (help you) and take care of you.
- Remember companies are loyal to their bottom line. Be loyal to yourself.
- If you are sick stay home. If you are on vacation you are on vacation. You earned it. Tell them you will be out of reach during your vacation time.
- Your goal should be to move upward. If you see a better opportunity go for it. Once again, be loyal to yourself.
- Let your coworkers know that your time is valuable. If they want to chit chat that’s what the break room is for. How can you do this? Simply close the door, appear to be working or even better, have them email you.
- Stay away from office gossip. Your focus should be on your career.
- Being nice is great but being respected is even better. Don’t let anyone take you for granted. Put your foot down when you have to.
- Become your biggest cheerleader. Let everyone know what you are doing and give YOURSELF credit for your achievement and successes.
- Remember you are not the office mommy, psychologist, cook, maid or friend. You are their co-worker.
- Stay away from office mammies and their co-dependent mastas. These people will resent you and will try to tear you down.
I hope this will help you on your journey to success. Don’t let anyone treat you like the help because you are not. Think and be limitless.