In the last of our three-part series on Black Women at Work, we spoke with Dr. Reston on her reflections post traumatic experience to learn how she recovered. If you haven’t yet, we encourage you to check out our previous articles on what workplace trauma is and how it impacts Black women. We know these topics are so personal so we want to thank Dr. Reston for going there and keeping it real the whole way through.
Practically, I recommend for any young people entering into the workplace, know that Human Resources is there for a reason. Know the utility of the HR staff, the right contact to bring what concerns to. Don’t be afraid to put things in writing so that you have dates and documentation. Most importantly, speak up! A good supervisor is one you can trust to help provide solutions.
What would you say to those women who are balancing stigmas around appearing to be aggressive vs. needing to defend themselves from wrongdoings at work.
With every position that I’ve had, I learned a new depth of understanding as it relates to my boundaries. I cultivated a new boundary as a result of this experience. I encourage people that as you are researching a space, get to know the culture, work environment, and retention of talent (especially diverse talent), so that you can make an informed decision before committing.
Find someone who works there or even from LinkedIn. Be thoughtful about what it is that you’ve come to learn about yourself so that you can properly gauge if this is the best place for you.
I actually sat down with a few mental health practitioners from my church community. They warned me that the experience may not be satisfactory but I was swayed by the interviewers and the salary. I was naive but at the same time wanted to have my own lived experience.
I don’t have any regrets about what happened. I gained more than what was taken from me.
What other practical tips do you have?
Be intentional about your boundaries. Whether that’s regarding your relationships with coworkers to how often you are taking vacation, be thoughtful about your time and cognizant of what’s working and not working for you.
The scariest thing to do is ask yourself if a space is for you. Truth is you don’t have to contort yourself in odd, uncomfortable, unsustainable ways to stay there. Leaving does not make you a failure. As Black women, we have a tendency to stick it out – at work, in relationships, with family – we will do that. While being mistreated, underappreciated, not held in mind. We deserve to be in a workspace that is conducive to our success. If we are doing well at work, our employer is also doing well.
If it’s not a good fit, don’t be afraid to look for something else.
How did you gain clarity on what was happening to you and your need to move on?
As a spiritual person, I fasted.
My 2020 theme (which is also repurposed for 2021) is to “Do it scared sis.” Sometimes it looks crazy to others but you know what you can and cannot handle.
Choose you and everything will be okay.
What did recovery look like for you and what tools did you use to help you feel OK enough to get back out there?
I pulled on all resources from friends, former mentors, church family and even my mama who often quoted my grandmother, “they talked about Jesus, they’ll talk about you too.” I learned that it’s not what people call you but what you answer to.
I committed to let the dust settle and allow my character to speak for itself. In my journey to healing, I had to hang out in the dust for a while; not believing the lies but also finding comfort in the unknown. I never want to be in a space to change who I am. I refuse to let other people take the joy that’s my own.
That meant leaning into my family, my girlfriends. We move in this world as a collective so I tapped into mine to recover. The community was a part of my self care. It was how I chose me in the midst of the darkest days. Over time I recovered fully and found a deeper understanding of who I am in this world and what I offer.