Hello everyone, and welcome back to the 3rd episode of The Defiant Business Podcast with Dr. Gail Hayes, the founder of the Handle Your Business Girl Empowerment Zone. I’m your host Ruthie Bowles, and today’s topic is one that I love.
I feel like what we’re going to talk about today has been talked about a lot behind closed doors. One of the biggest obstacles we’ve had is articulating our thoughts and feelings in a way that we’re heard by the people we want. That’s what Dr. Gail and I are going to talk about today. Dr. Gail, welcome! Thank you so much again.
Dr. Gail: Thank you for having me. It’s my honor to be here.
Common Sentiments About Our Current Societal Shift
Ruthie: You put out such great content that causes people to ask you questions both publicly and privately. I was curious whether you’ve received any common sentiments about the societal shift that we’re experiencing right now.
Dr. Gail: Recently, I did a series called 5 Things You Should Not Say to a Black Person. There’s a lot of discussion around those things, because they’re usually not things that Black people say to white people. We say it among ourselves.
There’s a group on Facebook that was discussing this, and one of the responses was the question, “ I think there’s some things black people shouldn’t say to white people. What about the word “dope”? They’d like to say, ‘Beyonce’s new song is dope.’ Well, I think that’s a negative word.”
I can’t believe that somebody would have that as a part of their rhetoric. That is a word that’s been in our community for quite some time. The first time I heard it was in the 60s. We take a lot of bad things and make them good things. People do what they want to do and put a new spin on it.
Post-Slavery Culture in America
So right now, you’re dealing with a post-slavery culture that we’ve had to create. Because we’re not just African-American. Africa is a continent that is composed of many nations. So we’re the descendants of enslaved Africans, which means we’re mixed race. And we have white blood.
I told that woman, I said, “It’s too late. Your great, great, great, great grandfather raped my great, great, great, great grandmother, and so here we are.”
Your Permission Is Not Required
We’re mixed, but we have created our own post-slavery culture, which also includes a language that is unique to our community. And I don’t believe that we need the approval of white people in order to have that language.
But now I will be honest with you and tell you that it’s really not just cultural. It’s generational. Ask your grandchildren; they all know what dope is.
Having someone say things like, “Don’t you think there are some things that Black people shouldn’t say to white people?” That it’s crazy. We’ve been watching what we’re saying to you for decades and centuries.
And no, I don’t think we need to talk to you or get your approval for words that we use. This is one of the words we use. I don’t even personally like it, but I will defend it.
And I might not like everything Beyonce or Lizzo does, but I will defend them because they have the right to express themselves the way they see fit.
Black women have had to break free of the bonds of our society. If those queens are breaking free, I’m with them. I might not agree with everything they say and do, but I defend their rights. I will stand in front of them as a mother and say, “Hold up. Before you come over here, remember you’ve got to deal with all of us.”
Freedom Means Being Uncomfortable Sometimes
Ruthie: That’s really important, especially for us as Americans. Any country where freedom is an important pillar of the nationality, we have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in the presence of different opinions.
If you express an opinion, look around and everybody agrees with you, you’re just in an echo chamber.
And I think that ties back to the previous episode when we talked about co-laboring. I don’t have to agree with everything that you say to still know, like, and trust you. If we’re able to communicate in an effective way and I can understand your perspective, that’s really good.
We have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable with differing perspectives in order to have real conversations. I applaud that woman for even asking you because she got an explanation.
Dr. Gail: I think she’s asked those types of questions before, but nobody was brave, bold and bad enough to speak it to her in a language that she could understand.
Ruthie: And that’s what she needed.
Dr. Gail: Yeah, because people probably just got offended and went off. And I said to her, “We don’t owe you an explanation, but this is what I’m going to say to you so you’ll have an understanding. When you come into our community, you come into our place. We say what we want when we want, how we want to say it.”
We Have a Right to Disagree
And there are those of us who might not agree with all of that, but we embrace it because it’s ours. I’m paraphrasing Voltaire, “I might not agree with what you’re saying, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
And I feel like everything we do is about relationships. My whole thing is relating to others and having a relationship, whether good, bad or indifferent. I’d rather not have bad relationships, but if you step to them in a different kind of way, people who mean you harm don’t mess with you.
Pulling Back The Covers Keeps Us Moving Forward
If I hear something, I’m coming. I’ve confronted people when they’ve said something about me. I bring that other woman and I’ll say, “You said such and such.” They don’t like that. So I’m the undercover girl; I pull the covers off of you.
This is the stuff that keeps us from moving forward. I had this dream where I had this beautiful house and all the walls are made out of windows, except for a few spaces. That night, somebody came in to wash the windows and paint the walls. They left the floor open because they needed to put the carpet down the next day.
Well, during the night some dogs came in and defecated all over the floor. The next morning, instead of cleaning it up, somebody laid the carpet on top of that.
Beautiful But With Hidden Secrets
And this is how I talk about society. You go into this place, it looks beautiful, but it stinks. What do you do in order to clean that room, and make sure it smells like it looks? You get on your knees. You humble yourself, pull that carpet up and clean that floor, then re-lay the carpet. Then we all can get in the room and have a party.
And that’s the way I look at life. This is what’s happening right now, and there’s some people who are stuck smelling their perfumed wrists because they don’t want to clean it up.
They don’t want to deal with the stench, but it is there. And it’s getting worse and worse because it’s seeped through the carpet.
And now people will say, “Well, who’s going to clean this up?” Well, honey, we’re all in the room. We’ve got to get down there together. And in order to co-labor with me, we gotta clean up the mess.
It doesn’t matter who made the mess. What matters is we’re in this room together. We want the room to smell like it looks, so let’s get rid of the stench together. That’s really what we’re dealing with.
How Is This Societal Shift Affecting Our Workplaces?
Ruthie: Whether it’s in your work or some of your more personal discussions, how are we seeing this societal shift play itself out in our workspaces and our businesses? What have you noticed?
Dr. Gail: I see the ivory towers crumbling. There are people who have lived in ivory towers. They’re very comfortable, and all of a sudden the businesses are shifting there. Front line employees are starting to speak up. They’re no longer untouchables.
How Can The C-Suite Be More In Touch With Their Front Line?
In order for this to work, you’ve got to value every member of your team in a very different way. In one of my interviews, a woman asked me, “Is there something that you believe that the C-suite/senior management could do to become more in-touch with their employees?”
Here’s one thing; I’m a mom. My children are young adults now, but I homeschooled them in middle school and high school. Let’s say you have young children, and you’re still working for a company from home. And I said that I believe the C-suite and senior management need to be more sensitive to that.
Something very small but impactful they can do is have a place where they drive back and get school supplies, and they give those to their team members who have small children.
Then, allow them space and time to have breakfast with their children by giving them 30 minutes off the clock. And then from lunch, give them an extra 30 minutes again.
You’ve got to understand that those babies are your future workers, team members, customers. They’re your future, and you must invest in them and their parents. That’s something they can do with the flick of a pen. Their employees will feel as if they’re cared for.
4 Basic Human Needs
There are 4 basic human needs:
- Feeling important
- A sense of appreciation
- Feeling welcome
- Feeling safe
You want to make them feel important, so acknowledge what they’re going through.
You want them to be appreciated, so give them something to let you know you appreciate them.
You want them to feel welcome, so let them know personally that you made this decision to help them.
You want them to feel safe, so get in their family and give them something tangible they can talk about and say, “This is what our CEO did to come out of the ivory towers.”
Dual-Income Families Are Forced to Lose an Income
Ruthie: That’s a very good point. Yesterday, I commented on somebody’s post on LinkedIn where they had shared about companies are having their employees go back to work.
My husband and I have definitely felt very fortunate that I wanted to be self-employed. That has really been amazing for us because if I was still employed, we would have had to have gone back to work.
One of us would have had to have quit and that would’ve been me. Because even though I had a great salary, his salary was better. I would’ve had to have quit this month because of the way that he had to go back to work. You also can’t bring your kids to work or any of those flexible options anymore.
Even not having to have to quit, it’d still be pretty difficult with my husband being there the whole time to help me take care of the kids while I’m working from home.
So it’s definitely something to consider. It feels like those types of decisions are made within an ivory tower. His company wasn’t any better when it came to getting out of those ivory towers.
Most Upper Management Have Older Children
Dr. Gail: When you get to senior management and the C-suite, your children are older, so it doesn’t impact you. You’ve forgotten how it is to have young children. And besides that, most of them are men. And they didn’t stay home.
They made good salaries, so their wives stayed home. Nothing changed for them. They’re still making their money, and their wives are still at home.
If they were young frontline employees, they would have to lose an income. I think when you get to a senior level, you’re making 6-figures, so you can be pretty insensitive to that.
What’s going to have to happen is you’re going to have to be sensitive to that, because it impacts your bottom line. You gotta have a new corporate culture, and not one that’s just always going to benefit you.
It’s Time To Come Out of The Ivory Towers
Ruthie: That is a fact. And I think that’s a perfect way to end this episode as well. The ivory towers need to come down and the people at the top need to do the work to be more in touch with all of their employees- not just the ones that are closest to them.
Dr. Gail: I call that the Rapunzel syndrome. Sometimes they’re in the ivory towers and want to come out, but they’re not sure how. So many of them want to be connected, but they don’t know if it’s appropriate to be connected.
But now the times of shame have changed and the leadership lens must change. So therefore they can let down their hair and come out of the tower.
Ruthie: At a minimum, companies can bring you up to the ivory tower if they need a dose of reality.
Dr. Gail: I would love to work with companies to shift the corporate culture because culture is not just racial. It’s class as well. It’s about language, everything we do with changing the language and changing the interaction.
It’s all about relationships and language. How can we improve on the sensitivity for that? You’ll have employees that will never leave you, but you’ve got to be the one first. Because you’ve got all the goods.
Ruthie: You have the resources. We’re going to get into language and our name in the next episode, so I highly encourage you to listen. Tomorrow’s episode will be our last one with Dr. Gail Hayes.
In the spirit of Future Fridays, I always save those episodes for more futuristic-types of discussions. We are going to get in that, and it’s going to be nitty-gritty and real. Just the way I like my conversations with Dr. Gail!