It’s a label that has even affected First Lady Michelle Obama. There is even a condition named for it–“Angry Black Woman Syndrome.” But being called the Angry Black woman in the workplace can be detrimental to your career.
Recently Jacque Reid broached the subject for The Grio in a special video series.
“It irritates me when people call me bitter, or say I have an attitude,” says Reid. “I feel it’s just another way of calling me angry. And as a black woman, that offends me, because I am none of the above. Yet, the world is quick to label me and my fellow sisters as ‘angry’ anwyay.”
For her video series, Reid interviewed licensed mental health expert Asha Tarry about how this perception impacts careers.
“When black women get to the point when they want to show how smart they really are, their knowledge base, their skill set… we feel we have to curb the way in which we present information to our bosses,” says Tarry. “So there is this extra bit of stress added on our day…there is this idea that when I speak am I going to looked at as ‘Oh no, here she comes. Here comes that angry black girl.'”
This fear of being perceived in this manner makes us hesitant to speak up, whether it is to give our opinion on a work issue or to speak out about injustices in the workplace. But Tarry says black women can’t let this stop them from making their voices heard. They just have to know how to be heard without being stereotyped. While noting this is especially hard when “everything you say is perceived as hostile,” but she suggests writing down what you want to say before you say it. But to be careful with whom you share this with.
Tarry advises to women to leave emotions out when expressing yourself in the workplace. Speak in concrete terms and not in emotional terms.
And when you are dealing with racism on the job, this is another fine line for black women. But Tarry says in order to progress you must speak out. Just don’t address the issue in a broad, open space. You will wind up looking like the outsider, she says, and it will be tough to get support. Instead, write down your thoughts then speak privately about your concerns with your manager.