Summary of How to Succeed When You’re Marginalized or Discriminated Against at Work

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How to Succeed When You’re Marginalized or Discriminated Against at Work summary

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Self-help books and business gurus offer an abundance of productivity tips: Check your emails no more than twice a day. Avoid unnecessary meetings. Delegate menial tasks to someone else. However, what if you face judgment for doing these things because of who you are? Or if your enhanced productivity goes unnoticed? Every day, women and people of color fight stereotypes that claim they’re unmotivated or otherwise incapable of succeeding in the workplace. New York Times editor Alan Henry discusses how they – and people from any marginalized group – can save time to focus on what really matters to them.

Take-Aways

  • If you’re part of a marginalized group, traditional productivity tips may backfire.
  • To avoid gaslighting, record who completes the “office housework” and who gets the “glamour work.” 
  • Find diplomatic ways to say no to busywork.
 

Summary

If you’re part of a marginalized group, traditional productivity tips may backfire.

In theory, improving productivity gives people more time to focus on the tasks they value. However, many women and people of color must push through stereotypes as they try to be more productive.

“We are all a product of a global society that portrays women as helpful and collegial, and women of color as being naturally predisposed to do the nonglamorous work. We default to these stereotypes often without noticing.” (inclusion strategist Ruchika Tulshyan)

The so-called office mom doesn’t have the freedom to develop new professional skills if she’s neck-deep in busywork. African-American employees won’t get help prioritizing tasks from managers who pigeonhole those workers as being lazy. Marginalized workers may need to take alternative approaches to productivity.

To avoid gaslighting, record who completes the “office housework” and who gets the “glamour work.” 

According to the Harvard Business Review, women and people of color are disproportionately stuck doing the unnoticed but necessary office housework that keeps a business running. As opposed to glamour work that earns accolades and promotions, housework is exhausting and can hurt people’s status at the company.

“It’s perhaps most important for marginalized employees…to document accomplishments and challenges.”

While the most effective changes often come from management, marginalized workers have powerful tools to advocate for themselves. They can use a work diary to guide a productive conversation about microaggressions or about subtle actions that discredit individuals in a certain group. A few supportive colleagues can offer insights before a high-stakes conversation, but above all, trust your own judgment. Record-keeping not only helps thwart discrimination, but it can also provide a good tool for celebrating your successes.

Find diplomatic ways to say no to busywork.

Often people will agree to do housekeeping tasks to seem like team players. However, if you’re a woman or person of color, this may reinforce existing biases. If a manager asks you to order lunch, develop creative ways to decline or casually suggest someone else do it next time.

“Recognizing quickly whether something is a small or large ask and how it fits into your personal or team priorities is essential…Asking your boss for clarity on what your team’s priorities are is also essential.”

To ensure every team member does his or her fair share of the busywork, you can also negotiate a rotating system that splits the responsibility among members of the group or explain how the tasks might affect your current priorities and workload. Use concrete numbers, if possible.

About the Author

Alan Henry is editor of The New York Times’ “Smarter Living” section. He was formerly the editor in chief of the Lifehacker website.

This document is restricted to personal use only.


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