74 : Listener Letters (Pt. 2)
Zach and Ade respond to a couple more listener letters. Keep sending them in, y'all! The topics discussed in this one include being pregnant at your job and finding yourself unable to verbally fit in with your coworkers.
Zach: What's up, y'all? It's Zach.
Ade: And it's Ade.
Zach: You know what? Wait a minute. Why do we always do me first? What is that about? You never go, "Hey, y'all. It's Ade," and I go, "It's Zach." Like, we always--we always do it like that. What's up with that?
Ade: I don't know if that's true. I feel like I have gone first. I don't know. 'Cause I do the countdown, so I expect that you do the--
Zach: Well, there you go.
Ade: Yeah, I just--
Zach: I don't know. I just feel like--I feel like if we're gonna dismantle patriarchy, like, we need to dismantle it at every--you know what I'm saying, every corner.
Ade: I feel like you're just using that as an excuse to not go first.
Zach: [laughs] Maybe it's 'cause--so when I walk around with people, like my wife, with women at my job, I open the door, and then I push for--I encourage for them to go first, and I kind of feel like it just doesn't rub me right 'cause--it rubs me wrong rather, because it's like I feel like I'm walking through the door first. Anyway, it's okay. Listen, y'all. You're listening to [inaudible]--
Ade: Does anybody ever hold the door for you, Zach?
Zach: You know what? My coworkers on my current project. They are--they hold the door open, and it's kind of awkward, and they go, "Yeah, that's right, Zach. I'm opening the door for you," and we laugh, and then I walk in the room.
Ade: Wonderful. I was about to say I'd open the door for you.
Zach: I believe that. I believe you would. I believe you would.
Zach: Well, look for those listening in, you are listening to Zach and Ade on Living Corporate, and today we have--da-da-da-daaa--more listener letters. What's up?
Ade: Sure do.
Zach: So it's interesting. It was like--I feel like we've been asking for listener letters, and now they're coming in. Really excited about that. Please continue to send 'em in. We're gonna try to do at least two per episode, like, episodes that we do this, so--and we're trying to, like, churn through them, right, so we can get back to them, so that way y'all know that we're actually responding to y'all's notes. 'Cause y'all do be sending 'em in, and I feel bad--like, some of these we've been sitting on too long, but--[laughs] so I feel bad, so we're gonna start actually being a little bit more--I don't want to use the word aggressive--intentional, right, in getting these back to y'all. All right, well, go ahead. This first one I'm looking at, Ade--I'ma let you go ahead and ride on this one, and I may provide color commentary, but I feel like this is definitely a space that you would probably be better to speak in.
Ade: I actually disagree. I think this is one that we should tag team, primarily because I have--I've never been in this dilemma before at least, so I don't know that I have the full range of context and experience, but I think it would be good to share this. Anyway, the subject of today's listener letter--it's called "Bun in the Oven." All right, let's go. It goes, "Hi, Zach and Ade. Thanks so much for this platform. I am dealing with a situation at work and I'm not certain what to do. I work in a relatively conservative area, and I'm pretty far from home. I've been in my industry for three years and in my current position for one. I'm used to working 60-80 hour weeks--whoo--at work, and I'm not alone in this. Most of my team tends to work long hours, but the pay is great and it's really rewarding work. Here's my problem - I recently discovered that I'm pregnant. I do not have a long-term partner, and I'm concerned about my ability to keep up with the pace at work and how my coworkers might react. What should I do here? Any advice welcome. Thanks again. Leah."
Ade: All right.
Zach: So now why do--what commentary or insight do you think I could add in this? I'm curious. What do you--how do you think I could--I could [laughs] provide--what value could I add to this conversation as a man? Like, you help me understand.
Ade: I just--I feel as though, as someone who is more senior in their career, you might have more strategic ways of approaching this conversation than I might. You want to take a stab at it?
Zach: Oh, okay. Yeah. So, you know, it's interesting. Of course I've been in a variety of situations. I work with folks all the time who get pregnant. I think what I've seen--I'm just gonna talk about what I've observed that I've seen go well is people just being really open about kind of what's going on if they are pregnant, utilizing their resources. So they talk to their leads, they talk to HR, they understand and, like, really explore their benefits, and then they just start making plans and saying, "Okay, well, look. You know, I'm pregnant, and this is gonna be--" "And I'm looking at my benefits so that I can go on leave. This is my work plan up 'til then." Talking, and, like, you know, just kind of being transparent with your leadership about, like, "Hey, because I'm pregnant, my work schedule may need--I need to adjust my work schedule in this way or that way." You talked about the fact that you're used to working 60-80 hour weeks. Like, those things may need to shift or change if possible, but again, I think it's--what I've seen is people who are really just open about it, because the last thing of course you want is stress. So the more things you can do to kind of destress the situation the better, and that's what I've seen--that's what I've seen work.
Ade: That sounded like a lot. I don't know why you discounted yourself from the conversation and sharing your knowledge to begin with. Yeah, I just had to fact-check you right quick. Anyway... all right, so, Leah, first of all, thank you for writing in, and congratulations on this new journey on which you're about to embark. I think I would say, first and foremost, that you wrote about a couple of different things here, one that you're in a conservative area, two that you're far from home, three that you're working really, really long hours, and four that you're kind of doing this alone, and I would say that all the more reason to find your allies and your sponsors and your mentors at work and disclosing to them, as you feel comfortable, the situation you're in. Two would be that you don't concern yourself with keeping up with the pace at work. 60-80 hour weeks are great when you are not growing a whole other human being inside your body, but those are the circumstances in which you find yourself. So I don't think that it's wise to put the expectation upon yourself that you'll be able to keep up with 60-80 hour weeks. That's not even something that people who aren't pregnant want to do at a sustained pace for a very long time, let alone someone who's literally sharing resources with another human being. So don't put that pressure on yourself. Don't put that expectation on yourself. Definitely be realistic with what you can and cannot handle, and like Zach was saying earlier, start figuring out what your work plans are, what your contingencies are, and have honest conversations with your leadership about what it's gonna take from now 'til, you know, Baby Drop Day for you to continue being fulfilled and content in your career and also preparing for, again, this new part of your life that you're going to have to deal with. So Leah, the one thing that did concern me about this letter was that you--you mentioned that you were concerned about how your coworkers might react. I feel as though that is not something that should even pop up on your radar. I hope that you feel supported at work, and if you do not I think that it is--this would be the chief time to get some time on your--on the calendar with your HR person or with your allies or with your mentors and get a sense of what it means to split your time or to start removing some things from your plate, and it's OK to do that. It's OK to say, "Hey, I do not currently have the capacity for this at this time, and it's only gonna get--my plate is only gonna get fuller from henceforth, so how do we manage this in such a way to ensure I'm still having a fulfilling career and, you know, not being worked to death?" Leah, take care of yourself. Zach, is there anything else you'd like to add?
Zach: You know, I think--the other piece is that you said that you're--you know, you're by yourself. Like, you're far away from home. So, you know, maybe there's an opportunity--and, again, every job is different. I know something that I was told, especially coming into the consulting space--and I don't know if you're consulting or not, but coming into consulting--I think it applies to just jobs in general, but it's like, "Hey, look, you don't get what you don't ask for," and so I wonder if there's any opportunity for you to work remotely on things, like, just for your whole working situation to change. I don't know the context of the role that you have at your job or, you know, how much of that is dependent on you being in the office, but, like, even if, like, a couple months, even before you take, you know, official leave for your baby, you could--you know, maybe there's an opportunity for you to work from home. Like, you know, there's other things. So I guess kind of going back to what I said at the beginning, which is, like, just being really transparent with the people that you trust, with your leadership, so that you can have a plan. I think that's part of it, is, like, being, like--just ask, like, you know, "What options are there for me?" I would also network within your business, right? I'm certain that there's other women at your job--well, let me not say I'm certain. Perhaps there are other--
Ade: I was about to be like, "How certain are we?"
Zach: "Are you certain?" But there may be other people at your job who have been pregnant and had children and had to navigate, so it's worth, like, networking and asking around as well. So that would be what I'd add, but nah, I think what you said is super spot-on. I agree.
Ade: And sort of to pick up on that as well, if there are any employee resource groups at your firm, at your company, for women, I would certainly look into that. I just realized I didn't even, like, finish my train of thought with the whole mentors and et cetera, but also look into what support looks like after you give birth as well.
Zach: Oh, that's a good point.
Ade: Because again, you're going at this alone, so that means that you're going to have to figure out what childcare looks like, you're going to have to figure out--see, I don't even have a child, so I don't know--
Zach: All the things?
Ade: All the things. But postpartum care... shoot, I am ill-equipped for this conversation. But, you know, finding out what it means to be both a career woman and mom, that's a whole conversation in and of itself, a whole exploration process, and the more resources, the more conversations, then the more people you have around you who are able to support you in that exploration process, who are able to point you at the resources that you need and who are able to say, "Look, I don't know, but I am going to find out for you." That's the environment that you need--that's the support that you need, and I hope that you're gonna get that, and if you do not, I am hoping that you're able to find a space in which you can be both. And the other thing that I wanted to bring up--I read this post on Fishbowl. This just occurred to me. I read this post on Fishbowl a couple of weeks ago about this senior consultant who had just given birth and her team was already emailing her work to do, and she still has six weeks of leave left.
Zach: Mm-mm. [disapprovingly]
Ade: Don't ever feel pressured to take time away from your baby for your job, because your job will still be there, and should they ever find reason to fire you--and honestly, if you live in a state that doesn't require reason, then you're SOL anyway--I strongly advocate that you--when you do take time off work, be present entirely and let them figure out, right? No offense, but ABC Corporation will be just fine without you, and you're not gonna get the hours and the days and the weeks after you first give birth back just to just feel like yourself again, to bond with this new human, to breathe. You're not gonna be able to sleep for a little while, per my sister. So just being able to enjoy, step into the fullness of that experience... do not worry about the 60-80 hour weeks that are waiting on you or whatever it is that you left behind in your absence, because everybody else is getting paid for that. Like, they're getting paid to ensure that there is no lapse in the work that goes on, so I wouldn't worry about that.
Zach: Yeah, that's a good point. That's a good point for everybody. I think a lot of times we can think that, like, if WE don't do something the whole world is gonna stop. It's like--it's a big company. Like, even if it's not a big company, you're not the CEO. Like, there's other people around. They get paid to help and be thoughtful and strategic on how to solve a problem. Like, you know what I'm saying? It's gonna be okay. It's navigable.
Ade: Listen, just take a break. It's okay to say, "You know what? I'm a human being, and I have a life outside of this, and I'm not particularly interested in splitting my attention or my time with something that's not this. Like, this is the most important thing to me right now. You can keep the job."
Zach: Yeah, straight up.
Ade: It's okay to say that.
Zach: It is. Okay. Well, Leah, congratulations as well. I apologize. I did not say that in my little initial response, but congratulations from the Living Corporate fam. Yearp.
Ade: We should have a Living Corporate onesie made.
Zach: Listen. Actually, I think that's a really cute idea. I just question, like, if we're--if we're big enough. But I would like to make one. If we get big enough and we start making, like, baby merch, we have--we have arrived.
Ade: Officially made it. Mama, we made it.
Zach: We have made it. We making baby merch? Not even just regular people. Baby merch. What? Anyway, one can only dream. The next letter comes from--oh, here we go--Jamal. Oh! ...I'm not hating on you. I'm not hating on Jamal.
Ade: Why did you do that? Nope, now we're gonna--now we're gonna have to have a conversation, Zach.
Zach: [laughs] It's just like--no, it's just funny, man. It's tough. It's tough out here, like, just the way that, you know, internalized depression is set up. Like, you know, even I see certain names and I'm like, "Oh, okay."
Ade: I can't. We're gonna have to unpack that.
Zach: We do. We need to talk about it. We need to talk about it in an episode about respectability politics, right? No, I'm just laughing at the name--I'm laughing at the name Jamal because it's just--it's so stereotypically black, and I love--
Ade: In the context of the conversation that he's trying to have?
Zach: And in the context of the conversation that he's trying to have. It's just funny. It's just all funny to me. Anyway, so look. Jamal, I'm not hating on your name. My name is Zachary. My mom named me that very strategically. I show up very well on resumes.
Ade: You should also say your middle name.
Zach: [laughs] So I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Ade: I just also want to say that that was the only, like, American name for, like, a very, very long time. Any time I ever thought about "If I ever have children, what would I name them?" That was the only, like--
Ade: No, no, no. Sinclair. That was the only non-[Yoruba?] name that I ever thought of, and it was because of Upton Sinclair.
Zach: Sinclair is a dope name though.
Ade: It's a very beautiful name. And then somebody was like, "Okay, but then they'll nickname your child Sin, and--"
Zach: That's true. Call him Sini.
Ade: Even worse. Even worse.
Zach: I know. It's just ridiculous.
Ade: Thank you so much for ruining this name for me, Sinclair. All right, let's move forward.
Zach: Nah, kids are so mean. Anyway, that's another subject for another time. So this letter is from Jamal, subject line: Finding the Right Words. Finding the Right Words. "LC fam, I'm a new hire, and my team is very casual. Like, they use slang and don't even talk--do not talk very proper at all. They use more slang than I do outside of work. Maybe I'm old-school, but I speak fairly properly at work, to the point where I'm noticing I'm alienating my team. They'll say things like, "Hey, loosen up," but I really don't know how--"
Zach: "But I don't really know how. I didn't even know it was a problem until I got here. What advice would you give me to help me adjust? Thanks. Jamal." Oh, Jamal.
Ade: Jamal. Jamal.
Ade: First of all, my apologies... I just jumped right into that. Zach, is it all right if I go first?
Zach: Go ahead.
Ade: I am so sorry. I am not laughing at you, Jamal. I am tickled by the situation that you find yourself in. My apologies. I do not mean to be dismissive in which you find yourself. I am not minimizing your feelings. I just--I simply do find it humorous. OK. So Jamal, I want to know precisely what is said, you know? I don't--I do think that--and we've said this before on this podcast that--and Jamal, I'm assuming you're black 'cause I've never met a white Jamal, but--
Zach: If we meet a white Jamal, he's coming on the show. I don't care what he does.
Ade: If we meet a white Jamal?
Zach: If there is a white Jamal--hey, if you're listening to this and you are white and your name is Jamal, email us and you will be on the show. I have never met a white Jamal. I've met a white Jerome. I've met a white Terrell.
Ade: I have actually met a white Jerome. I used to date a white Jerome.
Ade: That may have been too much information for this podcast. Let's move forward. [laughs]
Zach: No. Oh, no. JJ, do not cut that.
Ade: JJ. JJ.
Zach: Was he a Kappa?
Ade: Do me--oh, my God. We can discuss this offline. All right.
Zach: I feel like--I feel like a white Jerome has a code shimmy.
Ade: Can we--can we go?
Zach: Go ahead.
Ade: All right. Anyway, Jamal, again, I am so sorry. We are acting like plumfuls right now. First and foremost, again, thank you for writing in. Secondly, I feel like I need a little bit more context. What did it--what is it that makes you feel like you're alienating your team? Like, it's one thing for your team--I just have so many questions. One, I feel like there's a context necessary, right? If you work in an ad agency, the culture--or in a startup--the culture is not going to be as formal as if you worked in a bank, and that is not to say that you need to change the essence of who you are to fit into the context of your team, but I do think that it makes you more noticeable when you don't fit into the context of your team. Now, that said, there are fully ways that you can be who you are at work, not change an iota of who you are at work--see, you got me using--anyway, not changing the context of who you are, but also making more of an effort to be more accessible to your--to your team members. We've had this conversation before on an old episode where we were saying that people don't trust who they don't know. If you are inaccessible to your team members, it's harder for them to trust you, feel like they know you, go to bat for you in the same way that they would for other members of their team, regardless of how amazing you are. Like, I don't think that that is necessarily fair, because if you are a perfect coworker you just don't pop up at Happy Hours with the other coworkers simply because you don't drink. There's no reason why that should have an effect on your career trajectory. I do also think that there are other ways in which you can make people more comfortable with you without necessarily feeling out of place or like you're faking it. I think that you can--if you are a coffee drinker, you could invite people out for coffee. So they'll walk out for an afternoon coffee with you or coffee, or bring pictures of your family to put up in your workspace, or taking an interest in your coworkers, asking them questions about themselves so that you can listen to them use their slang and having a full conversation with them, because if that is not who you are, I wouldn't fake it. And I don't think you should have to in order to make anybody else comfortable. I do think that there are ways and strategies that you could employ to simply get to know your coworkers so that it's simply a part of who you are, Jamal, that you say, "I would not like to go to breakfast with you," instead of "Nah, I'm straight." You see what I'm saying? Does that make sense, Zach?
Zach: It does make sense, and I do--I do think more context is needed, and I recognize, you know, you're not trying to get into all the details or whatever, but some--it's a challenge, especially, like--and I can really relate to this letter. That's why I was also kind of laughing, just because recently I've been getting feedback that I'm too--you know, that basically--not even too formal, but it's just like, "Okay, I'm getting lost in what you're saying, right?" And so what I have to challenge and what I have to question is how much of this is really me needing to adjust how I speak, because I'm almost 30 years old, and up 'til this point in my life I've been told that I'm a good communicator. I think that's one of the--one of my strengths. So how much of this is things I need to change? How much of this is, like, just personal style? You know, like, maybe what you're not used to? And then how much of this is just, like, you just maybe not being comfortable--like, maybe something about me makes you uncomfortable and there's, like, some unconscious biases there, right? Like, those are all--those are all things that are real, and, you know, when I think about--when I think about being at work and someone telling you to loosen up, it's like, okay, well, if you're communicating and kind of getting the message across, or if, you know, you're just saying what it is and they're still not really hearing you, then talking to someone you trust, right, outside of that team and being like, "Hey, look. Here's the feedback I've gotten. This is what I've been trying to do." You know, "What do you think?" Right? Like, getting some outside feedback I think is gonna be really important, because what you don't want to do is feel like you're having to--I think, like, to Ade's point, like, change your entire self. Like, you're trying to, like, rebuild yourself. Like, you're enough. Like, I imagine that you know how to put words together, so it might just be about making, like, some small tweaks and adjustments, but at the same time I think kind of trusting your gut as well and knowing who you are and then just kind of leaning into that. I think--the other point Ade made which I really like is, like, getting to know people and just kind of, like, building those relationships and then letting them see you, as comfortable as you are let them see you, but yeah. Like, that's what I would do, and then that way when they talk to you and you say, "Yes, I'd rather not," they don't go, "Oh, here you go again." Or maybe they do, but they've seen you, and they've seen you be consistent, so they know you're not putting on some type of, you know, air. That's my take.
Ade: Right, and I do think that it's important that you separate who you are at work from who you are in general, and it's okay to not--it's okay to not want there to be an overlap. That's not to say that you have to hide yourself or lie or be unfriendly, and again, that's part of where this context that we're asking for comes in, because it's difficult to tell from this--from this letter whether the issue is that the coworkers don't feel as though they know you and that it comes out in them saying that you need to loosen up or that you are too straight-laced or if the issue is that you're not a culture fit for whatever reason. And I hate that phrase, "culture fit," because it's been used so frequently to exclude people of color, but again, some context is needed here, Jamal. I hope this conversation that we had helped, and if it did not, if you'd like to write in to further explain what's going on, we would love to have you, would love to hear some more from you, and if not, we hope that you get more comfortable, whether it is at this job or a next one. It's okay to be like, "You know what? I'm gonna take me and my suit and tie onto somewhere where we're respected." I think I'm perpetuating that "Break up with him."
Zach: You are, you are.
Ade: 'Cause I think I've said that about every single letter so far.
Zach: You have, and I'm like, "Okay, Ade." I mean, everybody's not gonna just pack up and leave their job. I mean, you know, people do though. People leave. People find new jobs. I don't think this is what he's talking--I don't feel like this is the answer on this one though.
Ade: No, I don't--I don't think that it is either. I am saying that it's OK if you feel like you don't want to and you want to kind of just pick up your things and go. The reason I say that is largely because you're a new hire, so I feel as though if they're trying to make you comfortable, singling you out is not the way to do that. And that may not be what they're doing. I fully admit that this letter's a little light on the details, et cetera. I'm just trying to address the full breadth of the experience that Jamal might be having. Since you're a new hire, it might be that they're trying to explain to you what the culture is without necessarily being the most obvious about it, because I know for a fact that I've, like--I've walked into a job in a full suit and the director was wearing jeans.
Zach: Yeah, that happened to me recently. Like, I came to work and I was wearing, like, slacks and a blazer, and he was like, "Don't wear those slacks again." Like, it was super casual, you know what I'm saying? It was funny. And I got mad love for him too. He's funny. He's a nice guy. It was just super funny. And I wore a blazer. He wasn't super happy about the blazer, but the blazer has grown on him. I think he was like, "You have to take the slacks off." He was like, "I'ma kind of give you a little bit of a time about the blazer for a couple weeks, and then I'ma let you, but you gotta wear jeans." And so I got some--you know, I got some designer jeans. Anyway. We're on a tangent now, but anyway, I feel you. I feel you.
Ade: Yeah, so I'm really honestly just trying to address the entire range of experience that might be going on here. It's entirely possible that they're wilin' and they need to relax and let you be who you are. It's entirely possible that they are trying to say, "Hey, you know what, a three-piece suit is not necessarily the way to go here," and they might also be saying that you're not a culture fit for whatever other reason. Either way, I would like for Jamal to feel comfortable in owning his experiences and in saying that, "Hey, I'm cool with this," or "Hey, I'm not cool with this," and either way, your life is yours, your career is yours, and you are able to make whatever decision you feel is necessary for your own growth and comfort.
Zach: That's real. That's real. I gotta snap on that.
Ade: Thank you, friend.
Zach: You're welcome. You know, something interesting... we're saying these people's real names, and I wonder... should we not?
Ade: Hm. You know what?
Zach: We might need to do this whole thing over. I don't know.
Ade: I feel like if they had wanted us to, like, bleep their names out or give them different names they'd have said so, but if you do write in and you prefer--and there are a bunch of Jamals out in the universe, so I don't--I don't expect--
Zach: There's a lot of Jamals.
Ade: Right? So if you do write in and you'd prefer that we do not say your actual names or the names with which you sign these letters--because these are just the names that signed the letters, so they may have given us fake names in the first place. Plot twist.
Zach: That's real.
Ade: But if you do prefer that we don't say your names, please let us know that, and we will do our best to find a repository of fake names to substitute.
Zach: There we go. I like that. I like that cleanup. Thank you, Ade. It'd be so funny. What if, like, someone gave a fake name, we go, "You know, we don't really--" You know, "We're not gonna say this name," and then we give a fake name and the fake name is their actual name. Whoa.
Ade: The universe really just needed you to say this with your chest then, because the odds of that--
Zach: That's tough. That's tough tough.
Ade: If you write in here, please note that I'm giving all of you [Yoruba?] names.
Zach: Straight up. Okay, so--all Yoruba names, really?
Ade: All of them.
Zach: I like that.
Ade: I mean, I might throw in an [?] name in there or an [?] name, but [?].
Zach: Like Oshioke. That'd be dope.
Ade: What? Oh, we're gonna have to coach you too.
Zach: [laughs] I actually know an Oshioke. That's why that's so funny to me. Goodness gracious.
Ade: It was just the way that you pronounced it.
Zach: I know. No, I gotta do better. I need to grow. There's some opportunities for growth there.
Ade: There are way too many Africans in your life for this to still be--
Zach: There are so many. There are so many Africans. Shout-out to all my real Africans out there.