Be the Positive You Want to See in the World

Politics & Policy

Perception in Workplace Race Relations

Image courtesy of Dear White People

I’ve just had an odd experience that is probably not that unusual, and I’m curious what people think of it; especially in the context of modern race relations.

We had a very nice African American man join our company earlier this year. I was honestly pretty jazzed about it — we don’t have many black employees (we are a small company, and there is only one other black male), and they’ve been difficult to recruit from what I can tell.

Unfortunately, things didn’t start off well. He fell asleep in one my meetings for example (sure, they’re boring), but I figured he was just tired and everyone makes mistakes. But then he got negative reviews from other staff and customers and was let go. I was disappointed, but it was the hiring manager’s decision and on paper it seemed like the right move.

A little while later, he posted a negative review on a web site that said (I’m paraphrasing so it’s harder to Google):

  • GOOD: Small-company environment
  • BAD: There are NO minorities, and that’s reflected in how he was treated. Minorities will be monitored while others are not as much. Criticism will be more harsh for mistakes, etc.

Other than being a drag to have that said about your company, it’s just so factually wrong that I wonder how much of the world and our opinions of each other are based on sheer fallacy of perception. For instance:

  • There are several Latinas and Latinos at work
  • There are many Asians, including southeast Asians
  • There is another African American
  • I think we’re more than 50% women, or close, including half the leadership team
  • I’m not sure about LGBTQ or disabled employees, as I’m not sure I’d know or if we even track that. Not sure it’s any of my business.
  • Overall, in meetings or daily work, you certainly don’t spend most of your time with only white dudes

I’m not bragging. We can do better, and we’re trying to do better. What I don’ t get is if he actually thought none of the other minorities existed, didn’t matter, or he just didn’t care. Is this just anger on a website, or is it his real perception?

I’ll never know, of course, but it worries me. If the reality shared by two people in a non-violent, positive, progressive, open workplace environment is so vastly different, how can there be hope for collaboration and progress in the nastier parts of the real world?

Bah. I wish him well, honestly, but I also wish I understood it better.


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