Thursday, September 29, 2016

My supervisor pulled me aside and asked me for my opinion on a situation that neither I or herself was involved in but happened with our Administrative Assistant and another Coordinator. What happened was the Coordinator, who is African American, and was the only African American in the building until I was hired, accused our Administrative Assistant of using racial slurs and proceeded to reprimand her in the hallway for others to see and hear. So my supervisor asked me if I was at the office on this particular day because this happened right outside my office. I was not in the office I was in the field visiting with my college students.  My supervisor is an older, conservative Caucasian women that is very soft spoken and has never raised her voice. She seemed very concerned on how to handle this conflict because she will have to address this. She asked me why I would think that the Coordinator would be the way she is and why she would think our Administrative Assistant would be racist when our AA has biracial children and her grandfather is full African American. My supervisor proceeded to tell me that the Coordinator even went as far as to say to her right after they hired me that the only reason she hired me was because I was African American. My supervisor stated this is not the first time that this Coordinator has accused someone of being racist, in the past she accused our Supervisor of not being picked for a Leadership Academy because she was black.

My supervisor did state to me that she can not even imagine or fathom of what the African American women thinks or goes through and just wanted my opinion on the situation why she is this way. I did explain that I do not know this Coordinator that well to answer that but I did say that there are people who are very defensive and think the world is against them for the simple fact of being black. I even told my Supervisor that the Coordinator may have some personal issues going on that we may not know about.

Now I have only been in my job for two months but in the two months I have been there I have noticed that the other Coordinator does bring up race a lot and always points out how we, meaning she and I, are the only blacks in the building and how she doesn't relate to them and how she use to feel left out and out of place and how she thought they talked about her all the time, but what I have observed is that this Coordinator stays in her office, she doesn't interact with people and I am the only person she speaks with. Another conflict is that the Supervisor use to have my position before she was promoted and the Coordinator and her use to be good friends. The Coordinator has told me that ever since our supervisor got her position she has changed and she doesn't trust her.

Now if it was me that had to address this, I would use the 3R's only because there is an established relationships there and the Supervisor has a lot of respect for this Coordinator and how she responds to the Coordinator will be the determining factor of how this conflict will be resolved. Using an empathetic ear and using effective listening skills will help our Supervisor as well. I did tell her to just ask her some questions and find out why she feels the way she does and why she feels that every time something is addressed or brought to her that her first response is always, "its because I am black."

If this was a conflict you had to address, how would you address it and how would you resolve this in the workplace?


  1. Comesha,
    To me it seems the Coordinator may have been racial profiled before and it has left a bad mark in her life so she feels all Caucasians are the same as the one who racial profiled her. I agree the 3 R’s is the best way to help solve this conflict. I would listen to the Coordinator and ask her why she felt this way. Then I would respond in a respectful empathetic manner. I would see if she would be willing to speak with the AA with me so that we can all try and compromise.

  2. Thanks for sharing your personal story. I agree the three are are going to be critical to this conflict resolution. I also think your supervisor will need to be ready for NVC since the potential for violent conversation may be high as she approaches this sensitive topic. Your supervisor is going to want to connect with the coordinators needs and values to get to the root of the issue. I think you could help with this by sharing with your supervisor what the coordinator told you about how she felt before you started. This background knowledge may help you supervisor be able to connect and be a more empathetic listener. Your supervisor will also need to be able to observe and express her feelings without judgement. As Bossgina commented above maybe she has had negative past experiences and needs to feel heard without judgment. Did this conflict get resolved?

  3. Thank you for your input and observation. Bossgina your observation that she may have been racially profiled before is something that I have not even thought about. That is something that I may have to mention. As of today I am not sure Chris if the conflict has been resolved, I haven't talked to my supervisor since she disclosed. I do plan to see if a resolution has happened.

  4. Hi Comesha,
    Its nice that she wanted your opinion, but in this case it sounds like you are the middle man. The people involved need to sit down and discuss the root of the problem. It's great to be a listening ear, but sometimes it best to get to the root of the problem by talking to the source and in this case the NVR would be great to utilize. great post!!