By Terry Lopez
I won’t list the employer for the reasons cited with my other examples in part 1 and I am still actively employed there. I was hired as a Project Manager reporting to a Director, Deianira. Deianira seems nice, but is a laissez-faire manager. She barely does one on ones, doesn’t really do pulse checks to see how my first ninety days with the company are going.
Within the first thirty days, I knew I made a mistake. I am structured and the company was going through a lot of changes, it was very chaotic and the department lacked structure. Queue Bela, She was a Manager reporting to Deianira, but second in command. Bela advised me that she would have me start reporting to her effective immediately, because Deianira didn’t have the time to adequately manage me. This was a problem, but I resigned from my old role to work there, so there was no going back (although I could have and should have).
Bela did weekly one on ones, because she wanted me to feel comfortable joining the organization. Bela listened to my questions, suggestions and implemented almost every suggestion I shared with her. We traveled, where I was able to meet her and I instantly knew she was a Hilly Holbrook. She stared at my hair, which was straight and long, the way I’ve been forced to wear it in Corporate America to avoid judgment.
She glared at my pearl earrings, my pearl necklace, my suit, and my shoes. I was overdressed in comparison to her and our other colleagues. We transitioned and I took ownership of her particular project. I learn quickly, the client is a nightmare. One of the worst clients to be specific. I managed them well, and I continued to provide project updates to Bela. Bela was always surprised that I was able to turn the client around.
Every single project that Bela assigned to me was problematic. The clients that were in the red as early as the Sales process. In every single case, I turned the poor experience into a positive experience, the customer came back for repeat services, and would rave about me. Our partner who serves as a mediator between us and the clients, constantly gave kudos about how efficient and professional I am. A source of dissension with Bela and the other Managers on the team.
I realize that Bela, who speaks to me weekly, seems to like me, but she doesn’t want me to succeed. I realized this definitively when I got assigned another problematic project. As always, I turned the project around. The Project Manager and I had a good rapport, so I was surprised when she texted me after hours asking if I was available for a phone call. I assumed she saw a project risk and she wanted to strategize, so I agreed. Once on the phone, she stated that she and the project team continued to be asked by our Partner and someone from my team if they liked working with me and if they liked me. She advised each time they said yes, they were asked the question again, as if they were being pressured to say no. They never said no.
I listened to her, but I thought she was crazy, and I didn’t entirely believe her. A huge error in judgment on my part. Not a month after the warning call from the Project Manager, Bela started encouraging me to document performance management issues for one of the members on our team. In fairness, this was the awful client that I inherited from Bela that everyone hated working with. ‘Ciara’ was frustrated with the client and not performing well. It isn’t an excuse, but this client was that challenging.
The first time Bela instructed me to raise the issue with ‘Darcy’, Ciara’s boss, all hell broke loose! Darcy told Ciara that I told on her, and that I was trying to get her in trouble. In turn, Ciara was angry. Ciara would barely speak to me, during internal calls she wouldn’t provide status updates, and when I would ask; I was told she would have it completed the next week. Ciara did own up to the fact that she was underperforming, not responsive to this particular client and was stressed out.
Fae, another resource on the team and part of the project team with our ‘special’ client, went to Bela and said that I was picking on Ciara. For context, these are all caucasian women. What she considered picking on Ciara, was me doing my job and asking all of our project team members during our standing call for their respective updates. They didn’t know before they came up with that lie, it isn’t something I would ever do. I am not, now nor have ever been a bully. I’ve actually been in trouble for standing up to bullies to help someone that couldn’t help themselves, so in short – I hate bullies! I genuinely liked Ciara, and didn’t want to raise the issue. However, Bela, my Manager, was instructing me to.
At this point, I am about six months in. Fae messes up a major task for our ‘special’ client. The client requests an ad hoc call, where they proceed to lay out every single mistake we have made. They demanded that we work on the weekend to fix our mistake. We traditionally don’t work on the weekends, however, because it was our mistake; I informed them that I would need to speak with our leadership team for guidance and I would follow up with them.
I didn’t even end the call with them before Fae sent me an email cursing me out. “How dare I not have her back to the client and she didn’t appreciate it…”. I am staring at my email for a few minutes, because I am dumbfounded. I don’t respond to Fae, because I am fuming. I forward the email to Bela and let her know, I’m not responding to Fae’s email. Bela calls me wanting to know why I didn’t have Fae’s back and why I agreed to weekend work.
For context, Bela already agreed to weekend work for this client for a separate task. I explained to Bella that Fae made several mistakes, and advised I explicitly said I would speak to Bela and the leadership team before I agreed to anything. Bela says she has to call Fae, but she would call me right back. Bela calls me back about twenty minutes later and tells me to ignore Fae’s email, that Fae acknowledged her mistakes, and we would need to do the weekend work, it was only fair.
Fast forward, Ciara is sick and tired of our special client and literally turns into a ghost, mid project; just vanishes. During one of my one on ones, Bela asks how Ciara is doing. I am literally sweating, because I can’t lie, but I know she will force me to tell Darcy, Ciara’s manager, and I simply don’t want to. What does she do? Tell me to tell Darcy. I tell Darcy, I don’t want to do this, but Bela is making me. Darcy goes out of her way to tell me she sees that I am not comfortable raising the issue with her, so she will tell Ciara the client ratted her out. Sounds like an okay compromise, except she didn’t do that.
Darcy called Ciara and told her I was trying to get her in trouble. Ciara has an emotional breakdown, through her tears calls Fae and some other teammates to let them know I was trying to get her in trouble ‘again’. Now everyone is mad at me, the tattletale. This was more confirmation that Bela was none other than Hilly Holbrook. Deianira reaches out to me separately to ask for a status on a particular client. I brought her up to speed and she told a joke about me loving drama. I should have corrected her at that moment, but I didn’t realize the web Bela aka Hilly was weaving at that time.
During my next one on one, I mentioned to Bela that I didn’t appreciate Darcy telling Ciara I was trying to get her in trouble when Bela was the one telling me to escalate to her. Bela informs me that she will speak to Darcy about the proper way to handle escalations. At this point, I don’t raise anything, because it doesn’t feel safe. My teammates start grumbling about me, not that I am not good at my job. You won’t believe this, that I am too good at my job. They felt that I am too crisp and by asking them to do the minimum required tasks of their jobs, that I was a maniacal perfectionist.
A colleague emailed me and asked me to proofread an email, because in her words, I was good with communications. In my performance review Bela cited that I needed to give people space to allow them to work, that I was too hands on, and needed to understand that everyone works in their own capacity. That proofreading emails was too much micromanaging. Huh? Was Bela trying to create issues for me? Did the coworker ask for my help, then communicate something differently to Bela? Why would she do that? At this point, my list of questions is getting longer and longer.
I start to retreat into myself, because I no longer trust the people on this particular team. They are hypocrites that will talk about you, then tell you how awesome you are, and how much they love you. Bela sees that I start to retreat, so she makes it a point to try to get to know me better. As she says she would like me to open up more. I learned early on thanks to the Bambino, that people that mean well for you, don’t encourage you to open up more. They allow it to happen authentically, that is; unless they have ulterior motives.
The final straw was a caucasian female on the team cursing me out and referring to me as “gyal”. Bela and Deianira stated that I needed to take ownership for that woman’s behavior, that by documenting her actions via email and copying both of our managers, so they were aware; that I shared ownership in the situation. Huh? Sadly, this is the short list of things Bela and the other caucasian women, “mean girls” in the department have done. Carolyn Bryant comes to mind when I think of them. That is the caucasian woman who’s lie resulted in Emitt Till’s death. They are evil, mean spirited and hateful for no reason other than they can be. Because their privilege allows them to be. Organizations use them as fuel to recycle Black talent, then claim they can’t find Black talent.
Black talent exists. It is in every organization across America. They are working in roles that are well below their capacity, they are working in roles where they are grossly underpaid in comparison to their counterparts of other races, they are working in dual roles, they are working in roles where they are dealing with bigots, constant microaggressions and bias. They are being offered Management roles without the pay and title as ‘trial runs’ to determine if they can do something they’ve already proven they can do. They are being chased out of organizations and having to start over, sometimes in roles below where they were previously, they are having to take pay cuts.
My experience in the corporate world, the caucasian man wasn’t the problem. I am not stating that there aren’t caucasian males like Bela in organizations, because I would be naive to say that. On my journey, they were helpful. They advocated, fought, created roles, tried to close a pay gap, the list can go on. The problem isn’t the caucasian male in Corporate America, it is the Hilly Holbrook’s that organizations are very aware of, but they pretend it isn’t a problem. They will dismantle an entire department, move the Hilly’s to a new department to wreak more havoc, before they will let them go. Hilly’s are good for their narrative that Black talent doesn’t exist.
Black talent exists, they are being chased out of organizations every single day!