88. Healing from Toxic Work Cultures with Zenica Chatman

Episode 88: Healing from Toxic Work Cultures with Zenica Chatman (Summary)

How do you rediscover your inner strength and confidence after workplace trauma like bullying or discrimination? How do you get back to a place of happiness at work? We’ll learn all that and more from my guest today. It’s happening now on Boss Better Now.

Links:
To learn more about Zenica Chatman, visit her website Zenicachatman.com
To learn more about Joe Mull, visit his website ​Joemull.com​.
To learn more about Suzanne Malausky, visit her website Weinspiretalentsolutions.com.
To hear more from Joe Mull visit his YouTube channel​.
To learn how to invite Joe to speak at an event, visit ​Joemull.com/speaking​.
To check date availability or to get a quote for an event, email ​hello@joemull.com​.
For more information on the BossBetter Leadership Academy, visit Joemull.com/academy.
Email the show at bossbetternow@gmail.com.
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Transcript – Episode 88: Healing from Toxic Work Cultures with Zenica Chatman

Joe:
How do you rediscover your inner strength and confidence after workplace trauma, like bullying or discrimination? How do you get back to a place of happiness at work? We’ll learn all that and more from my guest today. It’s happening now on Boss Better Now.

Jamie:
You’re listening to Boss Better Now. This show is sponsored by Joe Mull and Associates. Now, here’s your host, speaker, and author, Joe Mull.

Joe:
Welcome back, BossHeroes to your weekly dose of advice, humor, and encouragement for bosses everywhere. If you’re new to our show, know that we aspire each week to be food for the boss’s soul. If you’re the kind of leader who tries every day to create the conditions for people to thrive at work – that makes you a BossHero, and this show is for you. Now, that doesn’t mean you always get it right, and that doesn’t mean you always know how, but if you try — if you go to work every day saying, my job is to figure out what people here need to be at their best and then fight like crazy to give it to them, well, that makes you a BossHero. And this podcast is for you.

Joe:
Don’t forget if you wanna get all of our latest updates, videos, articles, and information about events happening, you wanna subscribe to our BossBetter twice-a-month, Email Newsletter. 
To do that, just text the word BossHero to 6 6 8 6 6. That’s BossHero, all one word to 6 6 8 6 6, and you’ll get our twice-a-month BossBetter Email Newsletter.

Joe:
I am very excited because my guest today is a BossHero herself. She is out in the world helping to create the conditions for people to thrive at work. Zenica Chatman is a certified personal and executive coach, helping women rediscover their inner strength and confidence in the aftermath of workplace-related trauma. Her own journey into coaching and positive psychology began after being left emotionally broken by a pair of workplace bullies. At the height of her marketing career, she went on a path to redefine her own self-worth and what it means to be successful at work. Now, as a coach, she helps other women do the same. Specifically, she coaches leaders to develop their own unique leadership style and create work environments that are safe and equitable, while also helping women establish a healthy relationship with work that puts them back into the driver’s seats of their careers. Please welcome to Boss Better Now, Zenica Chatman. Hello Zenica.

Zenica:
Hello, Joe. And hello to all the BossHeroes out there. I’m so honored and excited to be here today.

Joe:
Well, I am so excited to have you on this show, especially because you have not only taken on the task of helping people through some challenging work circumstances, but you’ve lived through them yourself. So, thank you for being here, and thank you for being willing, being willing to share your story with us. 

Zenica:
Yeah, of course.

Joe:
Well, I would love to start today… I mean, in, in the introduction there, we heard about this awful experience that you had early in your career. The language you gave me said that you were left emotionally broken by a pair of workplace bullies. So, to whatever degree you are comfortable discussing it, would you tell us a bit about that experience that you had surviving workplace bullying?

Zenica:
Of course. So, I like to describe it and tell people that I was almost fired from my dream job, really. And if you can imagine kind of you’ve worked your way up the ladder, this is the place, it’s, it’s, it’s the, the, the company that’s been on your dream list, they finally call you back. You get the job, you’re in there working. And I had so much respect for my team and the work that we were doing and all of the people around me. I just, I thought, gosh, this is where I’m supposed to be. These people are the best of the best and best. And after about a year or so into that, I’m thinking, yeah, and I’m killing it just as much as everyone else. And my manager says, hey, we need to talk. And I’m thinking, yes, we do, because it’s, it’s promotion time.

Joe:
<Laugh>,

Zenica:
Right? Like my, my millennial side came out, I’m like, I’m about to get a promotion!

Joe:
<laugh>,

Zenica:
And I did not get a promotion. One of the things that she said to me in that moment, and I’ll never forget, she said, you’re the worst person on my team. I had never heard those words before because that just was not my identity at work. I was a winner. I was never the worst person on the team, right? Like, I was the person that we joked about, like, he’s the worst person, not me. And so, if you can imagine being young, being in an environment where you really respect everyone else, and being told that you’re the worst person on the team, that was devastating. And so, what I did in that moment, you know, I was like, this is unacceptable, right? I thought this was me. This is unacceptable, that my performance is the worst. I’ve gotta get back to the top. I’ve gotta get better. And in that particular manager and leadership’s eyes, I was never able to get better. Once that label of being the worst person on the team was assigned to me, I could never get out of it. And so, I started to work harder. I put myself on, you know, as corporate people know what a pip is, right? I said, oh, oh no, you guys are not gonna put me on a pip. I’m gonna improve myself. Okay, I’m gonna come up with my own development plan. And I asked that manager, you know what, tell me how I’m the worst. Where have I been slacking? How do I need to improve? And I went home on a Friday night, and I spent that entire Friday evening with the glass of wine writing out all the things that I was gonna do to improve, how was I gonna make my own personal investments in these areas?

Zenica:
What opportunities and elements were available to me through the company to improve? And I presented that back to her and she said yeah, yeah. I mean, I don’t, I don’t think it requires all of this, but that initial meeting was kind of the setup for things to just fall apart. And in the months that followed, I was you know, my work was heavily scrutinized. All of my high-profile projects were taken away from me and assigned to other people. And, and was replaced, was very administrative, menial work to me at the time. I was excluded from key meetings with my team. When I was invited to meetings and tried to offer an opinion. They were, you know, literally met with the whole team would kind of turn their bodies away from me as if my comment wasn’t even made. And all the while there were still things that I had to deliver, right?

Zenica:
I’m still like, no, this is not gonna be who I am. I’m not gonna leave here as the worst person on the team. I’m gonna claw my way back to the top. But in the aftermath of that, I was just broken because, it really felt like no matter what I did from a work perspective, I could never recover. And so, my identity as this rockstar had fallen to, I am, I am the worst person on the team. And I think probably what was the worst part about that was I started to harbor that identity and I started to believe, gosh, I really, I really am the worst person on this team. And then you can imagine, you know, what that does to you emotionally.

Joe:
So, you had this interaction initially with your manager who gave you this feedback. You went, you accepted that feedback. It sounds like you, you know, some people would get defensive, some people would, would fight back and say, excuse me, but it sounds like you said, okay, if, if that’s where you think I’m at, let me see how I can change that. And then you went to put in the work to change that. But it sounds like there was a story that was already written.

Zenica:
Yep.

Joe:
So, when did you start to see, cuz it sounds like for a while, you, you agreed Okay, the problem is me.

Zenica:
Yeah, I did.

Joe:
So, when do you start to believe maybe the problem isn’t me?

Zenica:
Yeah. So, so two, two very definitive things happened. There was this moment where I was out in, in Cube Nation and the manager comes out of, out into Cube Nation. And I mean, I can’t even, Joe, I don’t even remember what she said because in that moment, to me, her behavior was so normal. But I do remember she kind of comes out into Cubicle Nation and it’s arms flailing. It’s yelling at the top of her lungs. And I’m just kind of sitting there like, okay, it’s Thursday. Right? And as soon as she went back into her office,

Joe:
Was this, was the yelling to you or was it to everybody?

Zenica:
I, I felt like in the moment it was just her yelling out into, into the ethos, because again, this behavior had become so normalized to me. Yeah. That I, I didn’t even internalize that she was yelling at me, but she must have been because as soon as she, she returned to her office, a flood of other colleagues around me in Cube Nation came flooding. I mean, the IMS were going off, people were walking by, are you okay? Are you okay? How do you deal with that? I could never, I am just wanted to check on you. I heard that. And that was the first kind of light bulb moment that said, okay, this is not normal, and this is not you. And the second moment came from my, my one kind of colleague, trusted advisor, and trusted friend on the team. And I had gotten to the point, Joe, where I could, I really was, I had, I didn’t have enough confidence to even email colleagues.

Zenica:
And, and we’re not talking about like the profound, this is the report. I mean, we’re talking something as simple as, hey, Joe, just wanting to follow up on the, on the document I sent you, have you had a chance to review? Because everything that I had done had been picked apart to, why would you even talk to this person? Like, what makes you think you can talk to this person? And it’s just like, because he’s the person I need to, to get the work done, right? And so, I was at the point where I was sending emails to a friend of mine to just say, hey, can you look this over? And she finally said to me, and we sat right next to each other in Cub Nation, and she spun around, and she said, I am not doing this anymore. Yeah. This is not who you are. You will not, I’m not gonna sit here and allow you to do this to yourself. What they are doing to you is one thing, but I’m not gonna be pervy anymore to you doing this yourself. So, you send that, you read that email one last time, you send it off and we’re going on about our day, but this interaction, I’m not gonna tolerate that anymore. And that was the second part of me saying, all right, I’m done.

Joe:
Yeah. So, we’ve got a leader who I’m, I’m even thinking about that first initial piece of feedback. You’re the worst person on my team, which isn’t feedback. That’s just a really subjective piece of character assassination. It’s a completely worthless piece of feedback. It also displays no consideration for the humanity of the person sitting across from you. There’s just nothing to be gained from even that, that language. And then we’ve got some other behaviors. We’ve got yelling and screaming and public dressing down. And, you know, just when you, when you make the list of what shouldn’t you do as a boss, like, we’re checking some boxes here, <laugh>. So, it sounds like you, you come to terms with the fact that this is not okay and that you can’t, you can’t continue on. So yeah. How did you leave?

Zenica:
Yeah. The other piece that I do wanna put in there is kind of as you went down the list, I actually did go to HR, right? Because I’m sure somebody is listening to this conversation and they’re like, why didn’t she go to HR? And I did go to HR and HR said to me, and I said, you know, I’m, I’m being treated in a way that I just feel is very demeaning and dehumanizing. And HR said, you know, perhaps what they’re doing is trying to make you a better employee.

Joe:
Oh, no.

Zenica:
And that was another “aha” moment because I have, I mean, I’m a big leadership development nerd. I’ve been reading leadership development books and going to trainings on my own dime since I graduated college. And I just kind of looked at my HR rep and I said, you know, I, I may not be a people leader at this company, but I’ve been trained in, in several other capacities. And I’m just, you know, I love leadership development. I’ve probably read more books on it than you. And in none of them have, I read the way that you make an employee a better employee is to make them feel like crap.

Joe:
Oh my. Yeah.

Zenica:
So, I, I kinda left that going, you know, I, I think we have a larger problem here if, if HR thinks that this bullying behavior is gonna make stronger, better employees,

Joe:
Right? Right. So, you decide to take your leave of this organization. How did that happen? Did you know, did you have the sort of cliche, take this job and shove it moment? Did you do two weeks’ notice? Like, what was your exit strategy? How did you get out?

Zenica:
My exit strategy, I think most people would be surprised, was very unique. So there, there, there was a take this job and leave it type discussion that happened. There just, there just was a moment in that Joe, where I think as an adult, because I was very much an adult  in, in this, I wasn’t kind of fresh outta college. I was very much an adult, had a, had a mortgage, and all that other stuff at this time. And there just comes a moment in, in being an adult and in being a grown blankety-blank woman that you just have to say, this is not acceptable. And I am no longer gonna accept this. And if this is how our relationship is gonna continue, this is not gonna be acceptable. And I remember in that moment kind of just having this like out-of-body experience that’s kind of like, you know, in, in the movies where like the kid who’s getting bullied is like, you gotta stand up.

Zenica:
Yeah. Like, this is the moment. And I left that meeting. You know, one, I always tell people it probably wasn’t the most professional moment I’ve ever had, but it’s one of the proudest moments of my career because it had to happen. And in that moment when I walked outta that office, it didn’t happen right away. So, I was very, very blessed in that, that it wasn’t like, all right, you can go out the door now. But I, I knew, I knew Okay, after this kind of exchange, your time is limited. Yeah. And I started to get the ball, the balls in motion. Personally, financially, I started preparing my family that this is probably gonna be a scenario where I’m gonna walk away from this and I’m not gonna have another opportunity. And I even thought within that company, I was not gonna be able to have another opportunity.

Zenica:
But it just so happened that that teammate was doing some things behind the scenes that I was able to get another call from a completely different department across the company, no interaction whatsoever. And I feel like and, and I’m a spiritual person, but I literally feel like God lays that out for me to where things happen to work out in my favor. But I know from listening to other bullying stories and helping other women who have gone through this, my story is very unique. And I was very lucky to have it end the way that it ended. But yeah, that was, that was how I, how I came out of it.

Joe:
So, it’s interesting you ended up staying with the organization. Absolutely. From an HR side, when you went and sought out help, not only did you not get help, but the advice you were given was or, or the, there was a justification for Yeah. The, the bullying that you were experiencing. Which just makes, gosh, that just makes my stomach turn. Just hearing that. Yeah. but you ended up staying, so how long did you stay with the organization after all of this happened?

Zenica:
I, I stayed there for many, many years.

Joe:
Okay. Yeah, all right. So, did you, did, did you have any interaction with those folks afterward? Did your paths ever cross? Was there awkwardness? Like, you know, how do you navigate that? Yes. Cause that’s such a real thing, right? That so many other people listening to this, I think have, you know, everybody wants to step back and say, well, then you just leave. Right? You, you, you walk out and, but we don’t always have the opportunity to walk out. Right. And sometimes we’ve gotta figure out how to make it work in a different department on the other side of the company. So, so that’s really intriguing to me, and I think we can learn a lot from that. So how did you manage that for those years?

Zenica:
I approached a lot of other women who were able to do the same thing, just kind of able to pivot within the same organizations. And I think one, that’s kind of how, you know that you’re healed when you’re able to be in certain environments with some of these people that have created very traumatic workplaces for you. But I often tell people the story and the healing didn’t stop once I got the new job. Right? Like, we think like, oh, happily ever after, check the box. No, I was still really hurt. And I think it’s even harder when you’re in the same organization because you’re carrying that stigma. There was this sense of, and I see it in my clients too, there was this sense of, oh my God, they’re gonna find out, they’re gonna find out that I was the worst employee over there. And, and they, they picked the wrong person, right? Yep. And so, you, you, how do you start to put yourself back together? Because the strong, confident, talented person you are when you walk into the place, she’s still there. He’s still there. But now you’ve gotta peel back the layers. You’ve gotta do the work of saying, all right, what’s the lie that I’m carrying now?

Zenica:
And how long am I gonna carry it? Because they’re gone now, right? I’ve got a new team; I’ve got a new manager. Those people are gone, but I’m still carrying this feeling of being not good enough.

Joe:
And if your confidence is shattered, as you described it Yep. There’s that little voice in your head that’s constantly rising up and saying, what if they’re right? What if, you know, what if it, what if I am the problem? And it takes a lot of work to, to reframe that and to change the narrative in between our own ears. So how did you get there, Zenica, when you were going through that, from being in this place where your confidence and your belief in yourself was low, and where you really were able to change that story in your head? That No, this was not about me.

Zenica:
Yeah. So, one of the things that I, I tell my clients to do, we, you gotta start to drop the lie. And so there, it’s, it’s kind of a twofold, part of, of my coaching process where I didn’t know, and I’m sitting in this cube and I’m looking at this great team, this great leader, this great manager. And I didn’t know any other way to get out of it. But to go back to what, what’s something I know to be true about me? And one of the things that I did, I had taken a Clifton StrengthsFinders and in my previous team, those strengths were used against me. And so, I remember I kind of closed that folder and I put it in the bottom <laugh> of my desk. I never pulled it out again. And I said, I, I gotta have something real and tangible that speaks to what I’m good at. And I opened that cliff strength that, that Cliff Clifton StrengthsFinders folder with all those top five strengths. And my top strength was communication which was one of the things that they had always said I was not good at it, wasn’t good at communicating. And I kind of looked at that and I had this like, oh hell no moment.

Zenica:
And I looked at those strengths again, and they just, they hit, it resonated. Because to me, this wasn’t something that somebody made up. This wasn’t something that I was making up. This was like data that I could go back to, and I could start to see all of the ways that communication and collaboration, and being strategic had played out in my career. Yeah. And then I started to say, if I just focus on using these things in this role, it’s, I’m gonna get right back to rockstar status. Yeah. And that’s what I did. So, every time those thoughts of like because you’re in a new job, right? So, there’s a learning curve. You’re not gonna know what you’re doing. You’re not gonna know who the players are. You’re, you’re just not gonna know. So, every time that I hit that wall and came back against C, you’re not good enough. I went back to those strengths of like, okay, yeah, but if I can use this strength of collaboration to figure out how to get to the right people, I’ll, you know, I’m gonna be golden. And that was one of the things that I, that I started to do, was I, I found truth and I replaced the lie with truth over and over and over again.

Joe:
So, you’ve obviously gone down this path now where you’ve taken this experience of your own and, and you’ve turned it into a coaching business where you work with other folks and put them on a path of healing in terms of having had similar experiences. So, I wanna ask you about that in just a minute.

Joe:
But first, we have to pause to do what so many of our friends and listeners come to this show to do, which is to hear the Camaraderie Question of the Week. The Camaraderie Question of the Week is a question that we give our listeners every week here on the show because we build camaraderie on teams by making it possible for people to find things in common with each other. And, and Zenica, you know, that we were gonna do this. I messaged you ahead of time. And Zenica has very graciously agreed to play along. This is our fun and silly theme music for the comradery question of the week. And so, our question this week is this, what is something you said you’d never try, but eventually did, and now enjoy? So, I, you had about 24 hours on this, I think, Zenica, and you said, I’m gonna have to think about that one. Did you, so where are you? Did something spring to mind?

Zenica:
It did, and it’s springs to mind this morning because I used to say I would never work out at home,

Joe:
Ah…

Zenica:
And enter this little thing called the Pandemic, where I had no choice. And I also, I’ll give you, so it’s twofold, Joe. I also said I’d never own a Peloton.

Joe:
<Laugh>. Okay. All right. And

Zenica:
So, during the pandemic, I learned how to work out at home and bought a Peloton. And like now I have like a whole like, workout space. Like I literally will, I’ll move my car out of the garage out of its home so that I can work out at home.

Joe:
Okay. And you enjoy it now?

Zenica:
I love it.

Joe:
It’s better than going to the gym. So, I had a similar experience, like for years I told myself I need the accountability of having to go to a place and to pay for a membership. And that was, that’s the only thing that’s gonna keep me going. But then when I looked at all the time, I lost on the, the coming and the going and the changing the clothes.  And how do you fit the shower in? Cause I don’t wanna shower at the gym. And most, some gyms don’t even have a shower.

Zenica:
Exactly. I try to get a bike, right? Like, I do like to spend, it’s like, oh, if I don’t get there 30 minutes before class, I won’t get a bike.

Joe:
Yes. Yes. And now you’re doing it at home.

Zenica:
Yes.

Joe:
And I imagine that it’s actually helped you stick to it.

Zenica:
It is. It’s so easy because, you know, you can just work it into your day wherever it fits. Yes. Go downstairs and get it in.

Joe:
I love that answer. That’s a great answer to this question. My answer is <laugh>. I have a really goofy answer to this question. So, my first, well, and I saw this question, I thought, oh, that’s a fun question. We should use it on the show. How would I answer it? And then I laughed at myself because my answer is Wordle. Are you familiar with Wordle?

Zenica:
I am.

Joe:
Do you, do you Wordle?

Zenica:
It’s a, it’s, it’s currently on the list of things I’m not gonna do. Joe, I,

Joe:
Right. So, my wife Wordles, and all my friends Wordle and everybody around me is Wordle-ing for folks who are listening that don’t know what this is, Wordle is a word puzzle. There’s one every day. It’s, it’s published now by the New York Times, but it started as an independent app. And if you’ve ever seen people post on Facebook, those little green and yellow boxes posts, that’s wordle, they’re showing you how many attempts it took them to figure out the word of the day. And it’s funny because when everybody started Whitling, my wife was like, I can’t believe you’re not doing this because this is right up your alley, man. Like, cuz I love word puzzles and brain teasers and things like that. And I said, you know, I just don’t have the bandwidth. I have so many other things that demand my mental time that if I, and I knew if I started doing it, I’d probably get hooked.

Joe:
And I was like, no, I’m just, I’m not going there. There’s no more room in my life for any other like, habits right now. And then my wife would get stuck on a word, and then she would like turn the phone toward me and I would be like, oh, it’s boom. And she’d be like, oh, how do you do that? And then, so like a month ago I decided to do it, and now I do it every day. And I love whittling Zika. I love it. I look forward to it. It’s like I get up in the morning, I get my coffee, I do my Wordle. I love it.

Zenica:
Oh man, you, you’re trying to convince me, but I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m more so like you are a couple of months ago. I’m like, I don’t have time to commit to another thing.

Joe:
And it, but you know what, though. It did exactly what I thought it was gonna do because here’s what happened. I enjoyed it so much. I was like, I don’t only wanna do one a day <laugh>. Like, if I need to de…, if I need to decompress my brain, or if I’m waiting to pick up my son from soccer like maybe I could, I said to my wife, are there, is there a Wordle app where you can do multiples? And she said, yeah, there’s one where you can do as many as you want. And so, I downloaded it, and now I, I probably spend a good 20 minutes a day just turning off my brain doing like seven or eight words. So <laugh> I ended up doing exactly what I said I wasn’t gonna do, but I’m enjoying it. So, what are you gonna do?

Zenica:
But now you love it. Look at that.

Joe:
Right? All right. That’s the Camaraderie Question of the Week, that’s a fun question. I feel like that’s kind of a lighthearted question that could really draw some interesting things out on a Yeah. That was a thank you for playing along with us.

Zenica:
Of course. That was fun.

Joe:
All right, so a big part of your work now involves helping women heal from toxic work cultures. What does that look like? How did you start doing that work?

Zenica:
Yeah, so I started doing that work in the pandemic. And it really came to me as a result of, you know, here in the States 2020, in addition to the pandemic, most of us were expo exposed to the murder of George Floyd and just kind of the the corporate outpouring of expression and words really <laugh>. And so, I was in all of these groups and, and hearing all of these other women of color. And, and, and, and by then I had kind of been on this path of, of coaching and understanding how to use coaching really just for myself. And I wanted, I knew I wanted to do more with it, but as I listened to these stories, and it was kind of juxtaposed between, you’ve got all of these women of color, all of these stories about how women of color are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs, but very few of them actually cross the six-figure mark.

Zenica:
Right? Or you’ve got women of color who in these groups and share the mic now are telling pretty much these identical stories. Joe. I’m like, how is it that this woman in Dallas, Texas, and Detroit and Atlanta and all these other places are having pretty much identical experiences to mine in terms of being exposed to a toxic work environment, being treated very terribly at work. And how do those two things combine, right? How does, if you don’t have confidence to set your pricing the right way, if you don’t have confidence to make the sale, to make the ask, or even to take the leap, how do I bring those two things together and really talk to women from a place of, yeah. Because most of us have had these really terrible work experiences. They’re gonna impact whatever else you’re trying to do.

Zenica:
Whether it’s built the business, whether it’s stay in that organization and climb the ladder and overcome from it. And we really have to do the work of taking the time to heal ourselves, to put ourselves back together, to connect with your strengths, again, to shed the identity of who you thought you were from work so that you can ultimately have whatever it is that you want. Because I do believe, you know, the work that I do is twofold, and I know you talk about this a lot in your world and on this space, there’s a lot of work that has to be done at work mm-hmm. <Affirmative> to treat people better, to create psychological safety. But once somebody’s already been exposed to that, there’s a lot of work that has to be done on the individual side. And I believe that that’s kind of where I come in and where the work that I do is so important is we’ve, we’ve gotta have lots of people at the table, but it’s hard to be at the table and make a point when you feel broken when you don’t have the confidence to, to say the things that need to be said.

Joe:
We talk on our show a lot about patterns. It’s sad as it is to say there is a long-established pattern at, and I certainly don’t need to explain it to you, but I’m just naming sort of the, the part of the root cause of some of what we’re talking about here. There is clearly a pattern of women of color experiencing certain kinds of feedback, certain kinds of interactions, certain kinds of exclusion in the workplace. You en you encountered those patterns in the stories that you were hearing from other people just like yourself who had the same experiences as yourself. And so why does that pattern keep unfolding, Zenica? What do we need to disrupt in order to create safer workplaces for everyone, but especially for women of color?

Zenica:
Yeah. I think that work environments, we have to get past the corporate statements. I mean, and, and I’m sure you can, we don’t need scientific data. You can take a poll of the women of color in, in your network and just ask them how have things improved in your said company since 2020, since your, since your company made that beautiful, nicely designed corporate statement that they put on social media. How have you seen things change? And I’m pretty sure the majority of them will tell you it has not.

Zenica:
Yeah. So, I think that companies have to get really clear about do we want to make these investments so that we create safe and equitable spaces? And I think most companies will say yes, but then when you do the work of looking at their board of directors, looking at their leadership structures, looking at if you, if you have a customer engagement group looking at your customers that you serve and who’s leading those teams, all of that data will tell you looking, I mean, in most big companies, they, they do those amazing employee engagement surveys. So, you know what the data looks like, has it moved

Joe:
Mm-Hmm.

Zenica:
<Affirmative> in the last two to three years, and then start to implement programs that really move the needle.

Joe:
Absolutely. I know that we try to talk on this show as often as we can about differentiating between DEI messaging and the deeper work that organizations need to do, the deeper education around things like cultural competence and microaggressions and what the experiences are that people who don’t have similar backgrounds or similar experiences, what they experience in the workplace compared to somebody like me who checks every single majority box that’s out there and available for, for someone in the world. It’s doing the deeper work around representation and making sure that voices are adequately represented. Do I look around in this organization and see someone who looks like me? Is there somebody who advocates for me? Is there, do we have a cross-section of humanity in leadership roles here in our organization? But it sounds like much of the work you’re doing right now, Anika is one on one, is that right? Yeah. Is that your preferred way of sharing your expertise and making the change in the world that you want to do?

Zenica:
I, I think it’s, it’s my preferred way for now. I really enjoy working with the individual. I’ve, I’ve gotten a few kind of, hey, do you wanna come talk to my team? And I’ll, I’ll do that work. But I really enjoy watching clients go from when I tell ’em, you know, maybe they come into a first coaching session and I tell them, listen, there’s gonna come a day where that person who caused all that trauma for you is gonna show up and you are not gonna react.  And they kind of look at me and, you know, they’re like, girl, you are selling me <laugh> something else right now. They don’t believe you because it’s, it’s so real and it’s so raw. And then you hear them say, you know, I went to this networking event because I knew that it was gonna be an opportunity for me to put myself in the space with the right people that I need to connect with. And I got word that so and so’s gonna be there. And I went anyway. You know, and, and hearing that like joy and excitement in their voice of saying like, I’m now in the driver’s seat of my career. And understanding that that experience that was created by that person doesn’t have to define who I am anymore.

Joe:
It’s funny. Now I have three kids under the age of 12. And so more often than I even care to admit, I tend to run so many things through the filter of parenting. And you just reminded me of something that I tell my daughter all the time. She’s in sixth grade she’s 11 years old, and she is committed to inclusion in a way that God, if everybody else in the world was as committed as she was, what a place it would be. Absolutely. So, she tends to, to stand up for folks when they need standing up for, and, and, but she’s also deeply bothered by people saying and doing things that you and I might describe as mean or mean-spirited. And some of that’s just like the normal middle school crap that you deal with, right?  But one of the conversations we have all the time is do not give that person the power to influence your thinking and your emotions in that way. They’re not worth it. They’re, and they’re not worthy of it. Right. and there’s so much of that that just kind of echoes what you just said, because it sounds like the work that you’re doing with your coaching clients is really just trying to crawl between their ears and saying, no, no, no, we have to change the story that you believe about what’s happening here.

Zenica:
Yeah. That’s a lot of, of the work that we do is kind of bringing them back to here’s what you say you want, and here’s how the story that you’re telling me is stopping you from getting there. But also doing it in a way because I, I think one of the things that makes me unique as a coach is doing it in a way that also validates their experience. Because I think when you are a, a woman of color, person of color, when you have these experiences that, that we have had, that we’ve shared, there’s oftentimes when you go to some of the traditional coaching routes that wants to convince you that, eh, the problem is all you, when we know there are other isms and biases and all these things that sometimes we have to acknowledge mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, right? So, it’s, it’s more about also kind of walking them through that, but also validating their experience a little bit too, and being another safe place to say, yeah, girl that happened to you. Yeah. Right. Because that’s another part of, of, we, we try to minimize that of like, well, I mean, I don’t really, I don’t really think I was discriminated against for whatever reason. It could be because I’m young. It could be because I’m old, I’m black or whatever. But I don’t wanna say that, but it’s like, but what if we just say that and let’s move on?

Joe:
Yeah. Yeah. And if you don’t have folks in your network who will help you get to the place where you are willing to admit what is or has happened to you, yeah. Then you just get caught up in these cycles of trauma, like you described at the beginning of, of having your confidence shattered of blaming yourself. So, you’re doing important work in the world, my friend. I’m glad you’re out there doing it. I know you created a work detox program called Surviving Corporate, that that helps women establish healthier relationships at work. Tell us more about that.

Zenica:
Absolutely. So, surviving corporate kind of just came, <laugh> came out of a happy hour with my friends where, you know, I was telling them about the work that I was doing with coaching, and they were like, you know, it sounds like it’s just like this boot camp. And I was like, that’s exactly what, it’s, it’s boot camp to survive kind of the experiences that we’re having in corporate America, but it’s also, it’s a funny play on words, but it’s also a little bit more than that. It’s an opportunity for women to connect back with themselves, to really get crystal clear on what is it that you want. Because oftentimes we’re, we’re coming to work and we’re working so hard and we’re doing all these things, and we’re climbing this ladder that we don’t even know that we wanna climb anymore. Right? You get to this point and you’re like, I don’t really want my boss’s job, but I gotta work as if I want that job.

Zenica:
And I know that that’s not where I wanna be. So how do we get really clear on what is it that you want? What do you, what is it that you need? Let’s name our traumatic work experiences, let’s talk about them so that we can start the process of healing. And we also talk a great deal in that program about the importance of rest and stepping back, because oftentimes we think the answer to any of our work-related problems is to work more. I mean, my story’s a perfect example of that, right? Like, somebody tells you, you, you suck, basically. And my answer was, well, I’m gonna work harder.

Joe:
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s how so many of us have found ourselves in these untenable circumstances where we’re burned out, we’re unhappy, we’re not treated fairly and you know, all of a sudden people will look around and name it and they call it the great resignation. And they think that we need to, to, as we talked about a little bit before we even came on the air, is that we’re trying to fix people when what we need to do is fix work and fix our responses to work and fix some of our expectations around work. So, thank you so much for spending some time with us today. If people wanna get more info about your program or keep in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to do

Zenica:
That? The best way to keep in touch with me is to follow me on the social. So, I’m Zenica Chatman on LinkedIn and @zchatman on Instagram. But you can also, if you wanna learn more about surviving corporate we are gonna open the doors to that program again in 2023. But you can go ahead and get on the waitlist, and you can do that at zenicachatman.com.

Joe:
And that is Z-E-N-I-C-A-C-H-A-T-M-A-N.com

Zenica:
That’s right.

Joe:
Fantastic. Well, I’m so glad you got to spend time with us today. We’re gonna probably get to talk with you again. I hope sometime we’ll have you, I hope, talk a little bit more, about what you’re doing in the world.

Joe:
My sincerest thanks to Zenica for sharing her story and her expertise with us.

Joe:
If you’ve listened this far, then I have one small ask for you this week, and that is this. Please share this show. There are too many people out there in the world right now who need to hear Zenica’s story and benefit from what she had to say today. Likewise, there are many, many bosses out there who need a weekly dose of advice, humor, and encouragement. So, in service to others, take a moment and share this episode on your LinkedIn or Facebook page and encourage others to check it out. Thanks for listening. And thank you BossHeroes for all that you do to care for so many.

Joe:
This show is sponsored by Joe Mull and Associates. Remember, commitment comes from better bosses. Visit joemull.com today.

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