How The “Emotional Tax” Black Women Face At Work Can Harm Your Career

May 4, 2017  |  

Image: Big Stock

Going to work isn’t the same for everyone, especially Black women who find the situations they have to deal with in the office uniquely stressful. It is difficult to speak our minds — if we do we are thought of as the “angry Black woman.” And we also work harder than our co-workers because of an unspoken pressure to have to prove ourselves. Then there are other racial and sexual stereotypes we battle, plus the stressors of home life, as many Black women are heads of household and are also taking care of other family members as well. It’s a lot to handle; and Catalyst, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion, recently looked at these issues Black women face in the workplace which have been summed up as an “emotional tax.”

“Catalyst found this ‘Emotional Tax’ can negatively impact health and success: about 45 percent of Black women and men who felt different due to their race and gender had sleep problems, and 54 percent of those who felt different on both felt that they had to be ‘on guard’ for potential discrimination and bias,” reported The Huffington Post.

Dealing with this emotional tax negatively affects how Black women perform in the workplace as well. “It may lead them to feeling they need to be vigilant and ‘self-police’ their behavior, so as to not let their ‘guard’ down. Getting less sleep when unrealistic expectations are too much to bear, can also make them more anxious and less productive than they would be,” reported HuffPo.

Often times carrying the burden of this emotional tax can make Black women feel like they are outsiders, making it difficult to connect with their co-workers. In the long run, it can also negatively impact our physical health and mental well-being in many ways. And while there are certain measures that can be taken to reduce the impact of this emotional tax, African-American women can not resolve this situation alone. Companies must address the burden of “emotional tax” on its Black female employees and help counter this heavy burden. As HuffPo put it, managers “need to create an inclusive working culture where difference is acknowledged and embraced, while also recognizing commonalities to make team members feel like they ‘belong.'”

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