New Blogger: Miss Anon Chronicles | Mind Issues – I can’t relate

MS-Anon-Blog-thumbYou may have heard of “CityBoy”, he wrote an anonymous column for free-sheet theLondonpaper, detailing life in the bubble of bonuses and city banking in the Square Mile. Well we have an our own version known as Miss Anon, whom would like to give her perspective of being an ethnic minority working in Canary Wharf.

I sat there staring at my performance manager trying hard not to scream or shout. All I could manage were tears. I felt embarrassed. I felt angry at myself. The last thing I had wanted was to cry in front of my manager but no matter how much I tried I couldn’t stop the tears.

He, being an accountant just stared back at me with no emotion. “I’m sorry” he said, “I know it’s seems like this was unexpected, but we can’t just give out grades like that. We give credit where it is due and you haven’t really done anything in the last 6 months that has really been outstanding”

What a load of……! I thought.

As you may have guessed by now, I had just completed my interim review and  it was sooooo not what I had expected. I had expected a much better rating. I spent the last 6 months on cloud 9 believing that I had finally found my place in the Corporate World. Turns out, I was wrong!

I flashed back to the team meeting we had had about a week ago where I had sat gloating thinking that I had racked up a pretty outstanding level of utilisation. There was no way I wasn’t going to get a good rating, I thought to myself. Girl!! You are finally moving up in the world.

I stared back at my manager, and through the tears, I said thank you and left. I felt sick in the stomach. But later, much later, when I had had time to think, I decided I had two choices; I could turn into a sourpuss and look for yet another team or indeed another employer to work for. Or, I could try and steer this train wreck in the right direction.

Time to get off my size 14 backside and stop putting myself in a box! After all, besides being black, I am well…ME!

After much deliberation and listening to both friends and family harp on about how well I had it, I decided that right or wrong my time in the firm or indeed the team was not done yet. I decided to take this feedback and turn it into something positive. But what was it that they were really saying to me?

So the next day I met with the partner to find out what exactly it was ‘they’ wanted me to do differently. I must admit unexpectedly, he seemed to be interested in my development. He seemed to care. ‘Seemed’ being the operative word, I can’t help but remain skeptical. I guess only time will tell.

“I don’t know you” he said “I don’t know what you can do”. I’m sitting there looking back at this dude and thinking… ‘What a douche! It’s a big firm how on earth would you know me? I have never worked with you, but I am bringing a lot of income into your department by working some pretty long hours. I don’t see anyone else doing that!!!!’

But he was right. Everyone else is working long hours too. Heck he does to! Why should he reward me for doing what everyone else is doing? I am not that special!

A few weeks later, I met with my mentor, a manager; also an employee of the Firm. As he took a big mouthful of his sandwich he said. “The game honey, you have to play the game, my sister”

Now my question is how on earth do I play this game? I am a black African, who grew up in a ‘third world country’, and I have next to nothing to talk to these folks about.

“Honey, you’ve barely got the hang of your preschool bike and now you’re going off to mount a horse. In Walthamstow! You couldn’t be any more ghetto fabulous!”

What on earth do I talk about? How I lived with inconsistent electricity and water for a significant part of my life? How I grow up rearing and killing chickens for Sunday dinner! How I would roast yam over an open fire, by moon light over Christmas and New Year instead of trolling through presents under the Christmas tree! How in my culture we provide for our parents in old age and we don’t inherit much more than even more responsibility!!! How rather than Coronation Street, I grew watching the program ‘tales by moon light’ and listening to folk tales under the moonlight! They can’t relate. I can’t relate!

I don’t know anything about boats, I don’t know anything about golf, and like most other women out there, I can’t stand football, cricket or rugby. So what on earth do I talk about?! How do I start to put myself out there?

News flash honey! If you can’t relate, it’s time to take steps to relate.

And how do I do that? By trying something new I told myself. Time to get off my size 14 backside and stop putting myself in a box! After all, besides being black, I am well…ME!

Time to see how I feel about the things that they do and which of these might be of interest to me. Time to start sitting with them and getting to know them. Time to get involved in their activities and stop being afraid. So now, I’m cycling into work and taking up horseback riding.

I feel like I can’t be myself around them, as they couldn’t possibly understand me. I have to be someone else or something else in order to relate better to them.

Horseback riding? Yes, horseback riding!!

Now, this one was met with sheer laughter by my family. “Honey, you’ve barely got the hang of your preschool bike and now you’re going off to mount a horse. In Walthamstow! You couldn’t be any more ghetto fabulous!” My sister said.

Well if Jennifer Lopez can be ghetto and fabulous, why can’t I?

I’m now spending more time with the team and sending out those annoying so obviously ‘sucking up’ emails advertising my availability to support other members of the team. I feel even sicker in the stomach doing this.

The thing is it feels unnatural. It feels forced and although the members of team are just ordinary people who under normal circumstances I would like to get to know. I feel like I have to ‘not’ take a genuine interest in them because it’s all in a work related context which feels very wrong to me.

I feel like I can’t be myself around them, as they couldn’t possibly understand me. I have to be someone else or something else in order to relate better to them.

Should this be the case? Should it matter? Does everyone else feel the same or is this unique to me, my culture or my race? Maybe I should just suck it up and get real! I have bills to pay, a family to care for. I need to move up in the world in order to pay my bills and cater for a growing family.

About the author

Morgan Don (aka Miss Anon) is an Articulate, Self-Conscious, Confident, Proud African woman who finds herself working in a blue chip company in the busy business hub of the City of London. The Miss Anon Chronicles blog is a diary of her everyday life journey as she deals with many issues that affect African women in the workplace, i.e. jealousy, glass ceiling, sexism, undervalued, fitting in, playing the game, to name a few. Check it out: Miss Anon Chronicles Blog </a

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