Dear Dr. Lisa:
I have been with my company now for 2 years. For the most part, things are going well. My reviews are strong and my relationships are good. Every now and again, I feel something that I can’t quite put my finger on. I might say something in a meeting and no one responds, positively or negatively. If I share something with elevated energy, people get quiet. I have asked colleagues and they don’t seem to notice it. Most of the time I feel great, but in these moments, I feel isolated and alone. It makes me question whether or not it’s me or what? I can’t help but wonder if there is something racially motivated here. The challenge is I don’t feel that all of the time. What gives?
Is it Just Me?
Dear Is it Just Me?:
Well, to answer your first question, it is not just you. I am glad you feel supported much of the time. That is good news and important. Stephen Young of Insights Education explains this phenomenon as a micro message – a communication sent nonverbally that communicates very effectively where you stand.
Minda Harts recently wrote “The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure Their Seat at the Table”. This is a must read! What Harts does so effectively is name and describe the phenomenon you are mentioning in a way that allows anyone who has experienced it to no longer feel alone. I like to say she names a “thing” a “thing”. Once you can take peace in knowing that what you are experiencing is real, you can decide what you want to do about it. You could even mention to your learning department or Diversity Leader that training on Micro-messaging would be helpful for the organization.
Since you are having a good experience, I would hesitate to leave, based on some legitimate but limited moments that are awkward. Keep talking and sharing with your colleagues if they seem open to understand your point of view. The next time you get no reaction to your idea, press in further and ask directly for thoughts and reaction to the idea you just suggested. You might even ask why there was no reaction. This will be instructive for you and for them.
P.S. Your theme song is, “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge.