This week, Jenée Desmond-Harris and Lauren Williams discuss a Prudie letter: “The One Who Is Left.”
Jenée Desmond-Harris: So, as someone who is always “at the table” and never “sidelined out of strategic dialogue,” did you feel for this letter-writer more than I did?
Lauren Williams: Ha! I don’t know if I felt for her, but I did think she was probably going about this all wrong and was very much in the wrong head space. I mean, it is too bad that she lost all of her work friends, but it seems like maybe they were racist/sexist and treated people badly? If I’m reading between the lines? So it seemed like they needed to go.
Jenée: Right. Her “best advocates and biggest fans” didn’t survive the racial reckoning … eek.
Lauren: I wanted to talk about this one because she might not be imagining things. The fact that she’s the lone holdover from a booted regime and the new leaders are trying to clean house … that’s really not a great sign. I don’t care if she doesn’t feel ready to leave, she probably needs to start looking. But if she really wants to stick it out, just saying that she wants to be involved isn’t really enough. They might not value her work because they don’t know her, and all they know is that she was one of the old crew. She has to do some active showing.
Jenée: Oh, I didn’t even think of that. She was so focused on how to move past her feelings, but she needs to be making some moves to protect herself or advocate for herself.
Lauren: (Again, when you’ve been somewhere for 10 years, it sucks to have to prove yourself—which is why it might just be time to go.) To me it seems like some of those feelings of mourning are wrapped up in the fact that she’s being left out of what’s happening right now. So she doesn’t have a place. And there doesn’t seem to be a plan for her to be included any time soon.
Jenée: I also feel like in the same way you can’t force someone to want to date you or be your friend, you can’t convince your colleagues to value you. So even if she has a lot to offer, the fact that they’re not interested is kind of the most important thing.
Lauren: Right. Even if she is the squeaky clean one who they couldn’t find a reason to fire, it seems like they might still be finding a reason to squeeze her out. I just encourage everyone in the workplace not to ignore these signs! TAKE SOME INTERVIEWS. And honestly, if it turns out you were all wrong and they do want you, you’ll find out when you come to them with your new job offer and they ask you to please stay.
Jenée: Sometimes that’s what it takes. I actually feel like this is connected to my advice about finding meaning and value outside the workplace, because if your “human connection” and “sense of place” and “value” are soooo tied up in your job, it’s hard to make strategic, rational decisions (like, update your LinkedIn!) rather than sitting around being sad and lonely and having a pity party because you’re not invited to the meeting in the big conference room. I just want her to get some distance and remember that 80 percent of this is not personal.
Lauren: Right. They don’t even know her. And in their defense (sorry I always defend management, I’m the worst), they just inherited what sounds like an absolute shitshow! They’ve got a lot on their plates! Their priority is probably not the person who has been around for 10 years and knows what she’s doing already. (Of course, you should also have honest convos with your manager about where you fit in and having a seat at the table. It’s their job to help you understand where you stand.)
Jenée: Exactly. In an ideal world they’d be focused on making everyone feel included and bringing out everyone’s talents, but they are probably semi-to-extremely stressed and overwhelmed and worried about their OWN performance.
Lauren: Anyway, I think these feelings are normal to an extent, but I think that you were right to recommend that the LW channel them into some out-of-the-office stuff. And I would add to that being proactive about finding some new job opportunities, and getting your manager to have an honest convo with you about where you stand. Because the solution is not to wait around for someone at work to notice that you are there.
Jenée: And definitely not to let your entire sense of self crumble while you do that.