It started out simple enough. One of those “get to know each other” exercises around our office’s chestnut conference room table. We would tell each other our favorite movie characters, the book we loved the most, just small things that could give clues as to who we were.
We started off at the head of the table: Mumford and Sons, Feist, Malcolm Gladwell, Dave Matthews Band, Corinne Bailey Rae. I even smiled a mental smile at the surfer-looking dude who admitted his love for all things Zora and Toni Morission.
And then it happened.
“Right now it’s a cross between Wacka Flacka and Rick Ross…and I know we’re not up to books yet but anything Sista Souljah, no question.”
I could hear a thousand DJs scratch and hold their records. While the heads at the table slowly nodded, their eyes showed confusion. Several questions lingered in the air. For my colleagues: who was this Wacka Flacka that this girl spoke of? And for me, there were two: Lord, why hast thou forsaken me and what is going through this girl’s head?
In that moment I didn’t know how to react. I mean I don’t think anyone’s favorite book can be ‘The Coldest Winter Ever.’ To me, that suggests, that person hasn’t read enough books in general. And to be fair, I do have some Ricky Rosay on my cardio mix but is “I go hard in the paint” really a quotable lyric in the workplace?
Whether we buy into it or not corporate America has many unspoken DOs and DON’Ts and the areas can be hard to define. Many of the folks who go to work in suits were the same ones front row at Jay-Z’s 9/11 benefit concert and…well, if you go to any major hip-hop act, you’ll find that the people in the front rows will likely include folks who spend their days buttoned up behind a desk as well.
So why is it that even with no concrete way to know what is in and out of the lines, we all can tell and know when another Madame has crossed into our office’s questionable territory?
What is our reaction when another Madame walks in with self-applied falsies that are hanging off or the acrylic nails that look like baby snails? Is it wrong for us to feel some type of way when the sisters with our skin tone participate in all shades of foolishness?
I know what it is like to experience these situations and wish I could have a flashing light sign that said “SMH” every time someone acted out of line. But on the flipside, if it’s not unprofessional, is it really a problem? After all, without personality we’d all be mindless office drones, or paper cut dolls with a uniform and shared voice.
Diversity in the office is definitely necessary but does the questionable behavior leave a bad impression or does it provide a necessary challenge to corporate culture?