Working While Black: How To Survive Being The Office Scapegoat
“Dot your Is, cross your Ts and don’t give these people a reason to say anything to you. Keep your head down and do your job. Once these people get a taste for your blood, it’s hard to get them off of your back.” That’s the pep talk my mother would give me most afternoons after she picked me up from school as we pulled into the parking lot of my after-school job. In response, I’d roll my eyes and let out an exasperated sigh the way that teens who believe they know everything tend to do. Little did I know, she was schooling me on how to navigate office culture as a Black woman working in predominately white spaces.
Of course, experience is always the best teacher. So it wasn’t until I witnessed a few of my colleagues fall from grace that I came to understand my mom’s predator-prey analogy. I worked for a company like many companies in America. One day they’re singing your praises, the next they’re clocking your bathroom breaks and engaging in other mean-spirited tactics that serve to humiliate and strip you of your dignity. People who aren’t even in your department are watching you and reporting back to your manager. Suddenly, you can do nothing right, your work is being analyzed with a fine-tooth comb, and anything that goes wrong is somehow your fault.
Finding yourself in the seat of the office scapegoat is a miserable and demoralizing experience that can sometimes cause you to question your competence and sanity. The effects have a tendency to spill over into your personal life. Even when you’re not at work, you’re tormented by flashbacks of all of the horrible things that are being done to you. You can barely enjoy your weekends because you can’t get your mind off of the misery that awaits you on Monday morning.
The good news is that nothing lasts forever. However, if you’re wondering about what you can do in the meantime to protect yourself, your livelihood, and your emotional well-being, continue reading.
Begin your job search quietly and immediately
Often times, your role as the office scapegoat is irreversible. So your best bet is to quietly begin your job search — emphasis on the word “quietly.” It can be exhausting as hell to interview while working a full-time job, but the reward is working for a company that doesn’t seek to dehumanize you and treats you like a competent employee.
Gather a list of strong references
Considering how badly things have gotten at your current place of employment, you may not be able to use them as a reference, which can be a red flag for potential employers. For this reason, having a strong list of references is crucial.
Get all communication in writing or at least as much as humanly possible. When you already have a target on your back, you need to practice the art of CYA (cover your a–) religiously.
Be punctual as hell
When you’ve been cast as the office scapegoat, you don’t have the luxury of being a few minutes late to anything. Anything that you do will likely be blown out of proportion, so take my mama’s advice and try not to give these people a reason to say anything to you.
Vent to a trusted loved one
Being the office scapegoat will cause you to question yourself constantly, so it’s a good idea to discuss your experiences with someone who will continue to remind you that you’re not to blame for your company’s toxic, scapegoating culture. As tempting as it is, refrain from venting your frustrations in public platforms, such as social media. Instead, confide in trusted friends or relatives — preferably ones that don’t work for your company.
Make time to indulge in what makes you happy
Your work environment is stressful enough. Be sure that you’re making time to pursue the things that make you happy.