Waking from your job nightmare - Working It

Waking from your job nightmare - Working ItRecently, after three years, I quit a managerial job in a large company where I experienced racial animosity in an extremely hostile corporate culture. Now I feel I don't know how to deal with White folks on the job--especially when they are rude, harsh and demanding. How can I rebuild my confidence and maintain my sense of who I am with people who are adversarial?

Understand that the way people interact and behave in a company with a hostile environment is not really about you at all, but about the culture. Your first order of business is to heal your soul so you don't carry the wounds from this bad experience into your future. To make sure you are not suffering from depression, you might check with a mental-health professional. For confidence and career-recovery purposes, seek feedback and support from personal role models, mentors and coaches. A good source of all three is the National Black MBA Association, Inc. Go to, the home page of the Chicago-based national organization for links to 39 local chapters and a network of professional resources. Last year the annual conference featured a Career Transition Center, which offered affordable one-on-one confidential private coaching services.

Two or three sessions with a career coach could help you do a constructive postmortem on you r bad job experience and process the take-home lesson that dealing with adversarial folks--whatever their race--is about power and influence. You can learn how to build influence instead of giving away power if you study the political dynamics of your work group and understand who the power brokers are. Once you observe (1) who has power, (2) who wants power, and (3) what people are willing to do to get power, you can create a successful strategy to enhance your workplace communications and relationships.

For further information on affordable career-coaching services, contact the Black Professional Coaches Alliance, 160-C Donahue St., #151, Sausalito CA 94965, or E-mail Focused one-on-one coaching can be delivered effectively either in person or via telephone sessions for $200 an hour or less. After you've worked through these issues of power and conflict, you'll want to concentrate on finding an employer with a corporate culture that's a better fit with your skill set and personal style.

I am a 32-year-old lawyer in my first job out of law school, and I hate it. My boss spends more time on his entrepreneurial interests than on his legal practice. I'm thinking of leaving the field. How can I ensure that getting a law degree wasn't a total waste of time?

Many people--whatever their chosen field--have gone on from a disappointing first job to opportunities that better position them for long-term success. You owe it to yourself not to give up on law based on an unsuitable first job. Because you're under stress and feeling insecure, a destructive voice inside your head is trying to convince you that you have no talent for your chosen field. You have to work on turning these thoughts down--way down.

Rather than thinking about failure, look at the opportunity: You're still getting a paycheck, so you can take time to find a new job with a better boss. Relax and organize yourself to do your research. Join an active professional association, and go to meetings and conferences to net work with people in your intended area of practice. Get your resume circulating, including in places outside your geographical area. Meanwhile, to manage stress better, be sure to get plenty of rest and exercise, and set aside time each week for an activity you truly enjoy.

Ella L.J. Edmondson Bell, Ph.D., is a professor at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business and coauthor with Stella Nkomo of Our Separate Ways: Black and White Women and the Struggle for Professional Identity.