The majority of the time, traumatic experiences in the workplace are not the result of a single traumatic event but rather of a million tiny, repeated blows.
The stories of confident and ambitious Black Women who emerge from college institutions or the institution of life with optimism and aspirations, only to be met with the sudden and jarring realization that no matter what you’ve accomplished or how hard you’re willing to work, that corporate prize will elude you.
Sadly, stories like these are not uncommon at all.
Microagressions And Stress
The term “microaggression” has been around since the 1970s. It was coined by Harvard University psychiatrist Chester Pierce. It was originally coined in relation to race, but has since expanded to include other marginalized groups.
Professor Deral Wing Sue and his collaborators state that microaggressions fall into one of three distinct categories:
- microinvalidations: remarks that have the impact of devaluing or negating the lived experience of those who are marginalized.
- microinsults: reinforce harmful stereotypes by insensitive remarks that make assumptions about an individual’s intelligence, morality, or belonging in an in-group.
- microassaults: the most blatant example of microaggressions, which can take the form of slights or insults and can be communicated verbally or through actions
The mental, emotional, and physical health of a person are all at risk when they are victims of microaggressions. Over time, these microaggressions create inner conflict and chronic stress, which only raises the victim’s risk for the development of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
A 2019 Black Women’s Health Study published data with evidence that illustrates the significance of support networks for women who are subjected to microaggressions. Women who do not have access to adequate support systems are more likely to feel progressively negative emotions and to harbor the possibility of modifications within the protective ends of their DNA.
Overall, people who deal with microaggressions on a daily basis may also experience anger, anxiety, hopelessness, paranoia, and fear, all of which can lead to unhealthy ways of coping such as withdrawal, substance abuse, and denial.
Lack of Parental Support
When discussing solutions to the problem of burnout in the workplace, “self-care” is frequently portrayed as a solution because it is seen as an individual problem. However, burnout in the workplace is an organizational problem that has to be addressed with systemic solutions, especially for single moms.
Throughout history, moms have consistently demonstrated higher levels of career ambition than women in general.
If businesses are able to effectively respond by creating workplaces that are more accommodating and empathic, they will be able to keep working mothers and foster a culture in which they have equal chance to realize their full potential.
It is essential that businesses acknowledge the existence of single parents.
During the pandemic, many single mothers, worked more instead of relaxing or picking up a hobby. This put them on a path to stress.
Research shows that the problem comes from organizations and work systems, not from the people who work there. The only real answer is to change the way things work through systemic change.
A few ways that companies could help include, but are not limited to: supporting public policies that recognize the unique limitations of single mothers or implementing a paid family leave policy that will be available for days when the child is out of school and etc.; make company culture inclusive; make an effort to hire and promote single mothers at the same rate of other staffed employees.
Burnout (And the Great Resignation)
Everyone’s lives were changed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
When a lot of people quit their jobs at once, in what is now called “The Great Resignation,” leaders didn’t know what to do. It was strange to see people leave what seemed like security at a time when things were so unsure. However, what was considered stability was no longer the same, especially for marginalized talent.
LinkedIn created a poll seeking clarity from people about the “The Great Resignation”; it revealed that it was not about pursuing another job, but about escaping the current one.
When asked to pick one of three main reasons they quit a job in the past year, 64% of those who answered chose peace, which was defined as less trauma or stress. Ten percent chose harmony, which is described as alignment or freedom, and 26% chose greater opportunity, or more beneficial options. Also, people left hundreds of comments speaking on not being appreciated enough, both in terms of pay and recognition for going above and beyond.
What companies say about their values and what workers actually experience are two different things.
In the end, marginalized black women who quit their jobs without warning are not looking for the “pay, perks, and promotions” that used to be the norm in the business world. In some situations, they are willing to risk everything to get away from stress, microagressions and stagnancy.
And because people are becoming more open, they now know they are not alone.
I entered into the field of ABA Therapy in 2021 with vigor and passion in my heart. At the time I was hired, I had lost my step-father, which impacted my energy without access to bereavement leave, but I powered through training and testing to receive my license. My son had just started pre-school and I was on top of the world because I was one step closer to my overall career goal.
As a single mother, I knew I would have to tackle the holidays and Teacher Planning days of when the preschool would be closed. Previously, this was not a concern because I was working Part-Time and had the help of my support system, but shifts had occurred. My attendance was impacted at first due to COVID exposure, but eventually progressed due to lack of childcare. However, I appreciated the leniency in the attendance policy as I was upfront about this with management.
As the major end of the year holiday season approached, a co-worker experienced a macroassault and it vibrated throughout the clinic. Everyone held their breath to see how it would be handled, but nothing major took place to rectify it. The disappointment hit like a ton of bricks because, while the business benefits, pay increases, and events were fantastic for morale, the fact that the issue was left unresolved thickened the air for minorities. See, minorities were already experiencing microaggressions and it was starting to impact everyone mentally in a career field that is already taxing on its own.
Even though more companies are encouraging open conversations about race at work, we can’t forget that Black workers have been punished in the past for speaking up.
I witnessed another one take place, but this one didn’t require a conversation with anyone — everyone witnessed it. I was torn because I enjoyed working with this manager, but I understood why my co-worker was shaken by what had happened. I helped them to articulate their concerns in an email. However, the damage had been done. Almost all of my peers from my training class had left and it was down to just us. I was on my second formal warning due to attendance and was growing frustrated with the unfair disciplinary actions. Although I had communicated that I would transfer, the second formal attendance warning was made official and prevented me from doing so.
On the other hand, I understood why the formal warnings were necessary, but why I was not granted the same ability to transfer departments as another who had impacted the mental and emotional health of their peer around the holiday?
My health was becoming worse, and it took a turn for the worst when I complained to HR about the situation. I was told that an investigation had already been conducted, and that nothing discriminatory occurred, without HR ever meeting with me in person. I was granted short-term disability. However, I was not offered the ability to transfer, noticed changes in my son’s curriculum and untraceable hovering, so I made the ultimate decision to resign.
I knew my entire life was going to be impacted and did not have a plan, but my mental health was more important. Thankfully, we have been able to remain housed, but we are facing due process of law from our home for a second time.
Do I regret my decision? No.