Breaking the Cycle: Examining the Effects of Toxic Culture (Part 1)

Hosted by

Sarah Morgan

CEO, Buzz A Rooney, LLC

About this episode

Inclusion Crusade 9 – Breaking the Cycle: Examining the Effects of Toxic Culture (Part 1)

Host: Sarah Morgan

Guest: Charlie Pleasant, Licensed Clinical Social Worker & Founder/Executive clinician of The Healing Collaborative

Welcome back to the Inclusion Crusade, where I am on a mission to create workplaces where employees feel safe, seen and supported. One episode at a time.

In preparation of Black History Month, I have been focused on talking about black women who have faced hardship, job loss due to their outspokenness online about racial incidents in their workplace. And as I wrapped up this series with my final interview, I realized that there was one more story that I needed to tell. And that was my own. Today, I have the wonderful privilege of being interviewed by Charlie Pleasant and she will help me to tell my personal story and discuss the effects of toxic culture on our wellbeing.


Connect with Charlie on Twitter @charliepleasant  and on LinkedIn at “Charlie Pleasant LCSW”

Leading In Color podcast episode:

Thank you for listening!

Transcript follows:

Sarah Morgan 0:11
Welcome to the HR Happy Hour Network. This is the Inclusion Crusade with me, Sarah Morgan, I am on a mission to create workplaces where employees feel safe, seen and supported one episode at a time. So as you all know, for the past few episodes, I have been, during Black History Month, women and women’s history month because for me, those are my intersecting identities. And so those months all just blend together into one big celebration of greatness. And I have been focused on talking about black women who have faced hardship, job loss due to their outspokenness online about racial incidents in their workplace. And as I wrapped up this series with my final interview, I realized that there was one more story that I needed to tell. And that was my own. Because I had some really interesting experiences during my time in corporate America. And that really has led me to do this work. And so I brought in a very special guest, I want to welcome back, Charlie Pleasant, who was with us not long ago, as a guest. She is a licensed clinical social worker, who works with black women and people of other marginalized identities in getting healed and whole. And she is also a workplace consultant, working with organizations across the nation in employee wellness, centering on their employees of marginalized identities. And so you all know, Charlie and I have been friends for 20 plus years, we are sorrows in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. And I asked her to be my interviewer, as I share this story with you all, and so and hang on till the end, no matter what even if you do get exhausted with us. And our shenanigans, hang on till the end, because I do have a very special announcement related to her. And I want to make sure that you don’t miss it. So Charlie, welcome to the Inclusion Crusade.

Charlie Pleasant 2:51
Yay, I’m so happy to be back. I’m happy to be back. And I’m really excited about the the series that you’ve been doing for Black History Month, and really centering the experiences of black women, but probably also experiences of people of color in the workplace as well, too. And I’m just really bringing that to the center, and having some really meaningful conversation about that. Yeah.

Sarah Morgan 3:16
Thank you. So all right, I am turning the reins over to you, my friend. And we said in pre show, nothing, no questions are off limits. So you do your thing. I am your subject. And here we go. I know y’all hanging out here with us.

Charlie Pleasant 3:35
This is like I’m in session. I feel like I’m having a session with the client right now.

Sarah Morgan 3:40
I know these interviews, they do feel like that sometimes because yeah, for sure. Okay. All right.

Charlie Pleasant 3:47
So we talked a lot. A lot of people won’t know that what we talked about kind of off air. I think it’s befitting that Sarah’s actually wrapping up this particular series with her own story about her experience in corporate America. I had the opportunity to be able to read through what she sent me and y’all this is textbook of what not to do when it comes to workplace. If had every element of a well placed F bomb could be placed right here. I mean, that’s just how incredible this particular story was. So we we thought it was a great idea, as we wrap this up talking about wellness in the workplace, talking about women in the workplace, with African American women or black women or women of color experience in the workplace by Sarah sharing her own her own story. So that’s what we’re going to start right now. We’re going to start with just me asking you, Sarah, tell me, based on what you shared with me, there was a lot of events that was calling leading up to what led to your exit from this company. So help our viewers understand a little bit about your experience and In what what you went through during that time.

Sarah Morgan 5:04
So, I began working for the organization’s 2014-15. And I can truly say the first few years were some of the best in my career, I finally felt like I had an environment where I was being mentored where, where my value as a people expert, was being utilized. From the moment that I got there. In this, you know, this is before it was cool, we were talking about pay equity, we were talking about development of employees, we were talking about how we make an inclusive work environment, how we take better care of our, for us, it was field level employees that were performing essential services, and how, you know, we make sure that they have financial freedom and security in their lives. And so I was loving doing that work. And I still have my blog that I was writing, and I was writing for a couple of other publications at the side. At the time, they knew that. And they were supportive of that, read the articles, discuss them with me, even when there were moments where something that I wrote made them uncomfortable, it’s like, Hey, I read this, is this something that you’re experienced in here? Do we need to talk about it? Is this a way? Is there a way that we can do better or, you know, I read this, and it made me think about how we do XYZ thing here. And I feel like we need to address that to get more on a more progressive track.

Charlie Pleasant 6:52
That was, it sounds like that they were encompassing your your humanity in your job. Got here, like, hey, we have this employee or associate that they have these interests outside of or their parents well, with what we’re trying to do, let’s see if we can tap some of this to also improve our cost. So you guys are a little bit of above at that time.

Sarah Morgan 7:12
Oh, boy, we’re ahead of the curve. Yeah, yeah. And I was so excited, you know, to be doing that work. I was I also had an amazing team around me that was super diverse, you know, LGBTQ plus representation, older workers, young, younger workers, a good mixture of people of color. You know, it was just such an exciting time. And then the organization goes through a merger. And slowly but surely, you know, all of that started to unravel.

Charlie Pleasant 7:48
This is not the first time that I’ve actually heard this experience of people having these amazing experiences within corporate America because there are pockets pockets within corporate America. Well, folks are doing it right. Now, actually, they’re actually going in, right. What has been something that I’ve heard over time, as I’ve worked with maybe individuals that are in C suite positions in my private practice that comes to me because they’re dealing with stress, anxiety, burnout, different things like that. It oftentimes come around the area of a merger. And I’m wondering what’s being missed right in the crux of when one company is actually buying out another company or absorbing another company, where the messaging of how to take care of the culture just falls off completely.

Sarah Morgan 8:34
That’s exactly what the problem is, is that the messaging about how we’re going to do this, from a cultural standpoint, was not properly considered. And when that happens in like an acquisitions is easy, because the company that bought the other one is going to take the lead. And that’s that, when you’re merging, you’re trying to take, ideally, the best of both organizations, and mash those together to make something greater than the two organizations when they were separate. And in our case, we did not do a good job of defining that from a cultural standpoint, processes. We did amazing, you know, financial tracking and those sorts of things we did amazing. But when it came to the area of how we lead people, how we treat people, what policies are going to, you know, reign and rule in this in this new normal. We had a lot of infighting. And I was trying to lead from the perspective of what we had been doing, and the conversations that I had been having with our executive leadership about how we wanted to move forward and how we wanted to things to look and the new leadership was not 100% on board with that. And so there were times where we were collectively in the room, quote, unquote, the room, right?

Sarah Morgan 10:12
And the conversations are great. And then when we leave the room, the messaging that gets delivered to the next level of management, and so on and so forth is not the same as what we discussed in the room. And so then there’s confusion. And there’s a lot of pressure on me, because I’m human resources that we have to find a way to keep the peace, and keeping the peace. Quotations again, a lot of times means compromise. And compromise in those sorts of situations often comes at the expense of people, and culture, and their experiences. And so that’s what was happening to us. And slowly but surely, all of those great efforts that we have made to become a more progressive cutting edge workplace, and what we were doing just got withered away with it away and withered away until I felt like I didn’t recognize what I was doing anymore. And then we had one more shift in leadership. Yeah, I feel like that was 2017-2018. And that’s when it really kind of blew the doors off of what happened because those leaders who I had worked with so closely, a few of them retired, and the other ones were moved out of the organization altogether, you know, nice, lovely golden parachutes to go off and do something else, or nothing else, whatever you want to do.

Charlie Pleasant 11:46
So it sounds like what was talked about in good faith efforts in conversations, as the merger or acquisition was taking place did not equate to any type of policy around the civility, workplace civility and culture. Yeah, and then a lot of things just kind of got lost in that. So I remember to share it with me. If if it’s okay for me to share here, the CEO that you once worked under had been had stepped down or been displaced from his position, and there was new leadership that came in and it sounds like from displays. That’s like you say it ever, the doors completely blew open when we have culture, pro how I read it, and understood it is a culture that was already pervasive, it was already happening, they just bought it to another,

Sarah Morgan 12:32
They brought it to another place. And I think that, um, you know, that just wasn’t, for me, it wasn’t the type of culture that I wanted to be a part of, because there was a lot of political infighting. A lot of power play with one another. And we’d had a culture that was super collaborative, and very much about the importance of making sure that everybody’s needs were met and honored in spaces. And we didn’t call like, These all sound like very, like fluffy flowery terms, right. We didn’t call it those things. But that was, that was just the way that we operated.

Charlie Pleasant 13:15
That was just the way consideration. It was the consideration across the board of how it works civilly with your colleagues.

Sarah Morgan 13:22
And we as a group of leaders within our original organization, we’re very intentional about being that way with one another. Like I can remember when I came on board as having leadership meetings and setting rules about how it is that we’re going to operate with each other because our boss told us our competition is outside these doors, not inside these doors. Inside these doors, we are one inside these doors, we are a team and everybody plays their position. And nobody’s position is more important than the other. So we have to stay on the same page with one another and make sure that we’re treating each other with with dignity, that we’re treating each other with respect that our word is our bond that we stay in integrity, like those things were just really enforced to us and all of that suddenly, you know, got lost in a lot of, you know, politics, and kind of it was just like a lot of power positioning. And I had done that at other points in my career. It just wasn’t how I was interested in working anymore. And I kept trying to influence us back to a more moderate place like can we find the middle because we didn’t bring these organizations together? Because one was more successful than the other like nobody was failing. Nobody was struggling but the organizations were thriving our org In his ation was actually larger and covered more geographical territory had we had the largest footprint, the highest revenue, so on and so forth of the group, which is why the name retains the majority of the staff retain, and our existing leaders remained in their, you know, various positions. And so it’s like how then do we decide that the organization with the largest footprint, the most success, like we were winning awards for our culture, we were a nationally ranked employer on several lists. Like that didn’t happen by accident that happened. intentionality? Yeah, that happened by intention. And so how do we go from that to where we are right now. And it became and the more outspoken that I became about things related to the people functions, the more I found myself getting pushed out of the conversation.

Charlie Pleasant 16:10
So I want to get to that I’m glad that you pivoted in that way. Because one of the things that you shared in your store with me was about how behind closed doors, people will call you or refer to you as. And I might be just paraphrasing here, but I guess the moral compass that they didn’t want, and or miss goody two shoes, or just whatever that might have been that, because you were actually doing your job. And I’m wondering to that, that’s one of the things that came up for me was, well, first, even before we get into that, talk to me about how you begin to experience the decomposition or decline at work, what were some of the things that were happening in the environment? That just completely it led to legal ramifications, that’s exactly where it had to go.

Sarah Morgan 17:04
It was a very difficult time, um, we experienced turnover, because people on the team were like, I’m not dealing with this. So we lost, you know, key people, there was a lot of fear around saying the wrong thing, or the right thing to the wrong person. And having it be twisted into something like everything was a bad game of telephone. And it’s that type of situation where you can’t just pick up the phone and have a conversation with somebody. If you do, then you as soon as you hang that phone up, you better send an email talking about per conversation, you know, and now it becomes I’m constantly tracking Yeah, it’s constantly covering your butt is constantly copying everybody and they, they mama and uncle on messages to make sure that again, your your butt is covered. And nothing can be you know, your words can’t be misrepresented. Those sorts of things in an environment in a in a working environment are toxic and exhausting. And for me, being in the HR role, I’m watching people leave, I’m watching people be incredibly stressed out. I’m watching people, you know, facing illness and you know, things like that, things that you know, are related to stress, panic attacks, you know, back problems, and, you know, illness and things like that. And then of course, I went through my own illnesses, but I know we’ve talked about that, but I um, and I felt powerless to be able to help and, and constantly pushing against it. Because the the righteousness in me is telling me that if I can just say the right thing, if I can just convey it properly.

Sarah Morgan 19:15
You know, we tell HR people, you got to make the business case, you have to understand how the business works. You have to speak the language of leaders like we we push all of this on HR, as the reason why we have you know why we at times are ineffective and not included in things because you don’t know this and you don’t know why I knew all those things. I had a master’s degree. I had you know, I understood fine finance. I understood account because I worked alongside those people within the organizations. I knew how our budget worked. I knew how our payroll worked. I supervise payroll, so I understood how all of those things came Together understood operations, I worked with them, I did their work with them on their training plans. Sure. I understood recruiting, I was running, recruiting, I knew how we were bringing people into the organization, I understood customer service I set with those groups. So now I am, you know, I’ve done all the team. Yeah, I’ve done all the things that they tell you that you’re supposed to do as an HR person to be welcomed and accepted and adopted as somebody to have voice within the business. And yet, I’m not. And so now in my mind, I’m thinking, Well, let me just like, I have to prove myself to these people, right? Like, these leaders are new, they don’t know me, like I’m telling myself, all the things, but in actuality, it’s just that that my type of voice was not wanted, they did not want someone who was going to advocate for fairness, they did not want someone who was going to point out that we were creating pay inequities. And in terms of the way that we were bringing new people in, they didn’t want, they didn’t want that. And, yeah, I had to, I had just had to come to that realization. And that was hard. Because I was still doing my work. On the outside. I’m writing for major publications, I’m writing for Fast Company, I’m writing for Black Enterprise. I’m being quoted in medium and CNN, like, those are the places that I remember, at one point, Forbes comes to me and wants me to join one of their their counsel for HR leaders. And I felt like a complete fraud. Because here I am in this organization, I can’t influence them to do nothing. But yet when I leave here, I have all this social media influence. So which one is the real me? Is the real me the one working from five to nine? Or is the real me the one to one working from nine to five, and I was completely blown away with that.

Charlie Pleasant 22:10
I’m so glad that you mentioned that. Because that’s one of the things that I work with, when we talk about when I’m when I’m working with. I work with a lot of women and well, a lot of black women and women of color that are in corporate America, mid level mid management C suites. That’s one of the things that I really work to do immediately when they come in and and I love that you’re even talking about the conversation is like, which one is the real meat? The honest answer is all of the following. What’s happening is that there is there we oftentimes people of color, and specifically black women and black men, but I’m focusing on women, because that’s that’s my speciality as well, too. But, um, we find ourselves in corporations that are not wanting to make that shift. It’s actually the corporation that’s invested in the toxicity of the of the way that it runs. So I was working with when I was doing some consulting for a pretty large tech firm. That was one of the things when I went in to do just some consultant dei consulting work and just listening to the stories of persons of color and their experiences in there. What I heard over and over and over and over, and I can’t tell you just over again, was how corporations value the they they prop up what they term or what we see what I term as the valuable asshole. So the organization and completely annihilate or just do toxicity all over the place. But you’re valuable to the organization because of what you can bring what you can produce because everybody’s looking at productivity. People are not looking at and I hate the word human capital of use that but they’re not looking at the, at the humanity of the people that are in those organizations. So I can act terrible, I can act and show up and behave poorly, and it won’t be checked. Because Because my leadership knows that I produce this bottom line income. So if you’re a corporation that focus and all corporations are listen, I get this question. All corporations are focused on the bottom line money is a part of this game, right? I would I would like to believe and maybe for some people it’s not you know, with Amazon, they actually build this into their to their culture of having people leave.

Sarah Morgan 24:30
There’s an expectation.

Charlie Pleasant 24:33
Behaviors are going to happen here. And we build it into our infrastructure, which is a problem in and of itself. It. That’s a whole episode. They’re their organizations that build into their funding or build into their pain. They have line items for litigation around discrimination, if you’re building that into the infrastructure of your organization, that are already saying that I’m willing to lose money, and I’m going to actually set aside money set aside a pot of money so people can behave in showed up poorly in our organization, you gotta have a real conversation about that, for sure. So with your organization, and what I remember reading about this was this was just leadership that was committed to toxicity. Yeah, they were committed, they were actually invested in committed in in protecting every the sexual harassment, the racial discrimination, the gender, the gender discrimination, the ageism, that was happening, they weren’t actually committed to that. So what immediately stood out for me was with you, Sarah, you are HR, the person that everybody comes to, or people within an organization comes to, to air grievances to look for resolutions, you’re the space, that we’re told when we’re working in these spaces that this is an HR thing, and yet you find yourself at the I’m being blocked on many fronts by the leadership within the organization, whereas you didn’t have the remedy to actually take care of yourself and then other members of your organization. Talk to the listeners a little bit about what I was when when your HR and your leadership is committed to not allowing you to investigate, investigate that allowing you to do your job? What are the remedies at that point? Ah, what are the remedies that are available to members with that organization with leadership are the gifts the actual leadership that’s creating the toxicity?

Sarah Morgan 26:30
So back then, I thought legal action would be, you know, the way we talk about, you know, the government agencies that are here to investigate matters of, you know, pay inequity and discrimination and those sorts of things in the workplace. And back, then, that’s what I thought was, you know, the proper way. Um, now I realize having gone through that process, and some of that I can’t go into too much detail because of because it is litigious, but what I will say is that, that I’ve learned that that process is really broken, too. And that there is not that you’re healing is not in that process. So what I and I don’t discourage people from doing that, because I think that legal accountability is is an important part of this process. But what I have learned, and what one thing I’ll say is what I wish I had done differently is I wish I had used the social media platforms that I had built better in that moment, because by going viral for organizations is more terrifying than being sued in this day and age. And so I would say, you know, people like, oh, you can go write a bad review on Glassdoor. Don’t do that, take it to your Facebook, take it to your Twitter, tag the people, and you know, and be intentional about utilizing your social, whatever social media reach that you have, it doesn’t take much for a post to catch on and go viral. Yeah. And so don’t be afraid to utilize that I see every day, in my groups on particularly in my groups on Facebook. And occasionally in my groups on LinkedIn, so much sharing from people of color, black women, about the crazy minutes that they go through in workplaces from the interview process to exiting the organization and every point in in between so much.

Sarah Morgan 28:55
And I often think to myself, if you would just call it call out the organization specifically, and make this post public. You have no idea. You know what, but I think we are fearful of what not I think I know, we are fearful of what impact that’s going to have on us as because in many cases we’re not we gotta find another job. And so we’re, we’re fearful. The retaliation comes, but that also other organizations being fearful of working with you. Because now you have now you’re the one that went viral, you know, now you’re the one who put the business out there. And we heard that from the other guests as a part of this series. Every single one of them now are working as an entrepreneur, even though that wasn’t their intention on how they set out they wanted to be in academia, they wanted to be in corporate America, they wanted to be in healthcare, they wanted to be in whatever industry it was, but when they stood up, Pa publicly against the practices, they be suddenly became unemployable. Because that next job doesn’t want to end up one, the end, you know, the other end of of you if if you are wronged in their organization and that organizations fear that, you know, again, going back to your original statement about organizations setting aside money to settle claims, like the organization’s fear, that should be a clue that something in in your culture owes something in house is not right. Like, if that’s something that you’re legitimately worried about, that will make you not employ someone, you should be concerned. But neat, you know, that’s neither here nor there. I knew, you know, I That wasn’t the reputation that I wanted to have. And so, as I, you know, started to look for another job and thought about how am I going to support myself and my family. And, you know, I just knew that that wasn’t something that I could do in that moment. But I will, in retrospect, I wonder if I would have found better support, and a faster path towards feeling healing, again, if I had gone that direction. And so I would encourage people to give that some thought.

Charlie Pleasant 31:16
Yeah, that isn’t necessarily found in the legal remedy. But exploring sometimes walking away silently is the best form of healing that can take place. It doesn’t mean it’s not a nod to our inability to fight. It’s a matter of strategically understanding that there are better uses for our energy than perhaps actually pursuing that. And then there are some people that are built for the smoke like they, like they are. And I love those people as well, too. Yeah, there are some that are built for the smoke. And we’ll take it, we’ll take it and push that we know that it’s a lawyer, I won’t I can’t call her name right off. But I’d be happy to give this information to you. So you can add it in the show notes. But I’m not sure if a lot of people are aware, but it hasn’t been getting a lot of at least a lot of like media notoriety of the big lawsuit has happened with the Metro DC police. What is a class action lawsuit, it’s the first of its kind of, for black women that were in that space that experience discrimination. From the recruitment of when you’re preparing to even go to be a policeman or policewoman up into what was happening in practice it’s the first of its kind, this person is built for that type of smoke.

Sarah Morgan 32:33
Yeah, that’s a huge, that is a huge identification. Yeah.

Charlie Pleasant 32:39
So understand, and what I like to tell a lot of the women that I work with that are in these spaces that feel like that they that they want to do something is that the best something that you can offer. Oftentimes offering yourself is something that you can do for yourself understanding that you don’t have to take on the heels of all of this, because we’re trying to have fun, even though it might fit even though you in your case, I know you You talk very specifically in the particular people that were targeting you, or leaving you out or giving you misinformation to meetings and different things. So we can intentional sabotage, I like to I’d like to bring the focus of that out to understand that it’s really a sign of you being those types of microaggressions that are taking place. This is a large sum a large systemic thing. And sometimes that’s often bigger than us. That is often bigger than us. And as in what pairs would pairs well, with keeping systemic racism, sexism and discrimination in place, and organizations is not creating the critical mass of black people and people of color in those places. Because if you create enough of the mass that’s in those places, our issues become more salient. Yes. This is just one person that has this one. On now, if there’s enough of us there, and this is a story. It’s not that it helps with that internalization of what’s happening, saying that these are the things that happen in external in our environment. And that was another thing that I had extra about him in what I gave him pre show is the importance of externalizing. Yeah, what’s happening in that environment?

Charlie Pleasant 34:22
Going back to what you were asking earlier, you know, which is the real me the nine to five, what are five, nine? All of it’s the real you. It’s actually the environment that’s completely just awful. Yeah, it’s awful. I wanted to take a moment just to kind of pause for a while since we’re right on here, talking about this is a book that I’ve actually shared with clients and I’m working with but it’s called shut them down black women racism in corporate America. And I give in it’s a story. It’s a compilation of stories of black women that are in corporate America and what they’ve experienced the gamut of everything that’s done, Carrie. Yeah. So so she put this together. One of one of our soldiers actually bought this to act to my attention, and she’s going to contribute it off the author’s in year out, she gave me an extra copy, I’ll send it to you. I’ll send that to you. But I’ll offer this as a read again is shut him down black women racism in corporate America presented by Dr. Kerry Yazzie. offer this, because it’s a great place to start of hearing everybody else’s story, you can begin to understand that it’s not happening in a vacuum to you. It’s not just you with this organization, this is across the board. That helps to in it’s a process that I like to work with my clients and helping take that energy outside of your body to see it’s actually happening in other places. And that because that’s the one thing that we do is blame ourselves. So what’s happening?

Sarah Morgan 35:47
Yeah, yeah, and as much as I know about this subject matter. And as much as I’ve studied and written and talked about all of this, I still internalized it, you know, and there was still and there was still very much an active part of me that felt like, what ain’t This ain’t about, you know, that. I can overcome it. By, you know, I can overcome this because you because I know the things and I’ve read the books, and I’ve got no, you you can’t. And I love what you said about, you know, that they’re that walking away is is an okay, option. And here’s one, one thing that I have learned is that similarly to victims of sexual assault, victims of workplace harassment, need, I’ll say, longer statute of limitations with which to come forward. Because right now, most of the laws, guidelines in place give you 180 days from the incident six months, that’s six months, that ain’t no time. It’s really not covering. And you know, this, like your, your nervous system has not even regulated itself. Yeah, right to the point where it can be ready and so forth. It simply wasn’t it simply is just not enough time. I understand, wanting the opportunity to you know, the sooner that that issues get reported, the sooner that you can investigate, you don’t want people to leave, you don’t want evidence to get lost or deleted. Like I understand all the logical reasons as to why it’s important to report issues as quickly as possible. However, we are losing the humanity in that process by not realizing the way that people respond to trauma, and the need for time in some of those instances to allow for people to come back to themselves and, and make a decision. Like you said, if I’m if I want to smoke or not, because at the time that all of this happened, I was not prepared. I was not ready to endure the smoke. I wanted to. I wanted all the smoke. Yeah. But physiologically,

Charlie Pleasant 38:33
Your body was like absolutely.

Sarah Morgan 38:36
Yeah. Go sit down somewhere.

Charlie Pleasant 38:38
You talked about, you mentioned that earlier about the panic attacks, and the anxiety and the back spasms, all of which are clear physiological responses to what’s happening in your environment, it takes time for your body to begin to understand that the environment is no longer a threat threat to but also when we talk about PTSD, it’s the mere thought of that actually happening. So because you have a couple of things that are competing at the same time. So say, if you’re in this type of environment, you make the decision to leave to your point, how am I going to take care of my family? How am I going to make money to continue up my lifestyle? So there’s also that fear that gets exaggerated, rightfully so when thinking about going to a new corporation, which is why a lot of people stay? Do I deal with the devil that I know or do I deal with that? I don’t know. I don’t know if I go into this new environment that I’m not going to have a lot of the same experience. So I freeze because I’m actually frozen in the space of the trauma that took place in this environment, which is actually a hinderance so to moving on to another place with more of a with more of a cleaner sleep. Emotional clean slate. Yeah. So it’s a couple of competing interests that are happening in that moment that doesn’t allow for full recovery.

Sarah Morgan 39:58
Yeah, and even though you have have an emotional clean slate in this new environment, you are still very tense. And you are still on hyper alert for any clue that is going to indicate to you that what was happening to you before is now happening to you again. So I love that you call it a PTSD. That was the word I was searching for like that, that PTSD, like workplace PTSD is real. And I hope that we continue to do more research and have more conversation about the impact of those sorts of things, particularly on black women, and other people of color and other marginalized identities. Because the things that we carry with us of Saturday, outside of the work, one of the things that impacted me when I was in that environment the most. So here we are in North Carolina, in the middle of the whole bathroom bill fiasco, which required people who were transgender or didn’t identify with the gender that they were assigned at birth, to use the bathroom of the gender that they were assigned at birth. And we had several transitioning employees in our organization at the time, and one of them in particular, got there. The manager said, called them into the office now, can you imagine you just show up to work on a on your schedule shift, Mike normal, meaning that you any major coffee, and your manager calls you into the office and says, You need to go talk to human resources so that they can tell you what bathroom you need to use now, because I don’t know, even though this person had been using the bathroom at work, they were using it on Friday. So what is the problem on Monday? So, you know, they come into my office, we have this conversation, and they broke down in tears, because they felt unsafe. Yeah. And what do I say, you know, there’s nothing that that individual at that time was so triggered, because of experiences they had had in other workplaces, co workers who had attacked them, and you know, put notes on their desk and things like that.

Sarah Morgan 42:38
And I knew these stories, because they had shared that with me, and now they are in their mind. And in their body, they are right back in that place. All because you decided for whatever reason that this was appropriate, this was the appropriate thing to do, you have no idea, you know, the impact that you can have on people. And we that employee ended up resigning, because not too long after that incident, because they no longer felt safe in the environment. And there was nothing that we could do to make them feel safe again. And it will it can be such a minor thing, but calling them out of away from the rest of their co workers and shipping them off to HR, like they were going to the principal’s office, like they had done something wrong, you know, when all they did was just show up for work that day, they hadn’t even used the bathroom. I hadn’t been there long enough, right. But that sort of an incident and that has stuck with me for years. Because I don’t ever want anyone to feel that way in the workplace. But I know what that feels like, you know, I know what it feels like to be like, oh, yeah, this is you know, when people go through layoffs, and and that are unexpected, you know, you come to work thinking it’s going to be a regular day, and you you know, sometime mid morning or into your day or whenever they decide to do it. They they just release you from employment. And now every time you go to a new job, and every time somebody walks in, you know or calls you into a conference room or whatever, you a little bit tensed up those sorts of experiences, like we don’t have the right to traumatize people for their paycheck. You know, we just don’t have the right to do that.

Charlie Pleasant 44:40
And it happens over and over and over again. And that goes back to that compound to trauma even going back to the employee who identifies as trans. It sounds like it was a trans person of color and just understanding just the statistics that are out there. But the one thing that came to me immediately was how underemployed our trans population is, especially when it comes to people of color. And what that means for economic security if they if they’re released or having to resign from a job, because of the MIS handling of them as a human being in the space. So it’s not just you, me and whoever, whatever managers mind that might have been in, it wasn’t just having a conversation with HR, it’s a lack of understanding that this person brings with them systemic issues, or experiences from systemic systems. That informs how they move in this space.

Sarah Morgan 45:33
And in that particular instance, the manager hadn’t even talk to me. So I didn’t even know that this employee was going to show are we both surprised, and, and in this situation, you know, and I’m doing everything that I can, because I understand their what, how upsetting this is for them in that moment, and I’m doing everything that I can to reassure them, that nothing is changing, and that they are safe in this environment. But there was nothing that I could do, you know, to change that perception. And so that’s what that resulted in, and that person has very little recourse in terms of what they can do.

Charlie Pleasant 46:13
It’s not a federally protected class. Some states on Earth, that’s very few and far between, but identifying as LGBT or trans. It’s not a federal, if, for whatever reason, it’s not a federally protected class. So there’s no EEOC claims that you can file for being maybe falsely, you know, released from an organization or, or feeling like you were forced to resign due to some actions that were happening in the workplace. Yeah. And a lot of people stay silent.

Sarah Morgan 46:47
And I think that it’s important to note that because even with the EEOC, and I’m not, you know, making these statistics up, if you go to the EEOC website and download the report for yourself, the majority of the complaints that come through the EEOC are white women, and Christians. So when you look at the people who are complaining, there is far less people of color, you’re not, you know, disability claims, even within the disability claims, the disability claims tend to be white people and not people of color. So because we are accustomed to being marginalized, accustomed to not being believed accustomed to not being taken seriously not listened to, we’re not the ones filing the complaint. And, you know, don’t don’t be mad at me pull the report, it’s on the EEOC website, the data is right there.

Charlie Pleasant 47:48
And we have too much to lose collectively and individually, economically for again, going back to a point you made earlier, during the during the interview, of when we do sound, the alarm, all of the stuff that comes with that loss of income, not being promoted or promotion track being somehow denied or veered off. Lack of sponsorship, no one wanting to work with you and organization so that you can grow all of these that retaliation again, micro micro aggression is on a whole on various levels that are happening. And so if you’re in that space, and you’re wanting to take care of yourself, the difficulty of actually doing that and coming out of and coming out of it unscathed is damn near impossible. I see is sitting in my office often.

Sarah Morgan 48:43
Yeah, we get the week. Yeah, for sure.

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