Etiquette | Don’t Lose Your Coveted Internship like Insecure’s Rasheeda

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Hi all,

So I’m back with the etiquette series.  This time it’s on office/work place decorum. Summer is right around the corner and for some this may be your first time stepping into an office setting to work. I want to make sure you all do not end up like Rasheeda aka DaDa on HBO’s Insecure, who lost the internship of her dreams by not knowing proper workplace etiquette.

Who is Our Subject Rasheeda?

If you all haven’t gotten a chance to watch Insecure on HBO you all should.  The brainchild of Issa Rae, the wonderful human being who gave us the web series and book Misadventures of  Awkward Black Girl,  If you do not have access to access HBO shows via your cable provider or streaming service, sign up for a 1 month free trial. There’s only 8 episodes lasting roughly 30 minutes each. Anywho, I’m not here to sell on you Insecure. Instead to give you some context and use this as a teaching moment.

Rasheeda is a summer associate at a big law firm. On paper she’s the perfect candidate, but in person, she needs some polishing. She’s loud in the halls, not open to taking advice, and has a false confidence that nothing will go wrong. Molly, a third year associate, finds herself approached by a white partner gently asking her to sharing the company culture with Rasheeda. Although it was uncomfortable, Molly gives her some advice on how to succeed in the workplace. Lowering her voice, having conversations in private, being mindful her surroundings. You know, usual expectations when working in a corporate office.

two black lawyers, black women in office

Source : HBO

Rasheeda rejects this advice as Molly preaching respectability politics and decides not change behaviour. She stated that it got her far in law school and she acted the same way in the interview, thus feeling not need to make a change. Her decision to not heed Molly’s advice costed her the position as summer associate.

 

Respectability vs Decorum 

I’ve read articles about this scene. Some depicted Molly, someone doing well professionally, as being jealous of Rasheeda for being herself. Others said they think it’s not right for people to ask Rasheeda to suppress her identity. These people are wrong. There is a time and place for everything.  Identity management is key to succeeding in life.

There is a difference between changing who you are and knowing which identity part of yourself to present given your location. When you’re in the office, one does not know who will be roaming the halls or on the phone with a client. You as an employee are a reflection of the company. Showing poor judgment, such as not keeping more animated conversations in the break room, can be read as such. Not to mention, you could be interrupting the concentration and work of others who reside in cubicles or keep an open door policy. You do not want the reputation of being the person everyone in the office complains about, especially as a newbie.

african american woman, black woman, black professional

The analogy I like to use if a doctor’s office. If you went in for a check up and found the doctor and/or nurse gossiping in the halls it would leave a bad taste in your mouth. This should be applied to all work settings. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to connect with your coworkers or expressing yourself, but be mindful of where you do so. Which is something Rasheeda was not.

 

How to Keep Your Job

Here’s the thing, every office has a different culture. When you’re researching companies and interviewing for positions, you have to ensure it’s a culture and space you can work in. As much as Rasheeda wanted to be a corporate attorney, she was not ready to make the changes needed to fit into big law culture.  Summer internships such as these are a test a see if you will add value to the company as a full time employee. To make the most of these opportunities, there’s a few things you should be doing.

 

  • Reach out to alumni from you university or employees via LinkedIn to learn about the company culture.
  • Read reviews on GlassDoor and TheMuse.
  • Ask example questions during your interview process.
  • Try to gauge the behaviour of your superiours and accordingly
  • Ask for feedback
  • Listen and reflect on advice given to you

If a higher up approaches you with advice on your behaviour, listen and reflect on it. This person has been with the company longer than you. For black women in particular, I know it can feel it at times the “they” DJ Khaled often speaks of is conspiring against you, but you have to learn how to filter through sound advice and that with the sole purpose of tearing you down.

Rasheeda didn’t have that self awareness or trust in someone looking out for her. Someone who went out on limb and put herself in an uncomfortable situation to make the road a little easier for Rasheeda. So my advice to you is come in with an open mind, hunger for knowledge, and mindset of being okay with adapting to your workplace culture. Don’t be Rasheeda and mess up an opportunity of a lifetime.

 

Until Next Time,

Aitza

  • I’ve never heard of The Muse, definitely bookmarking it while I look for jobs!

    • Aitza B

      Yes, The Muse is so helpful for just career development in general. I hope it’s a useful tool for you.

      xx,
      Aitza B

  • While there are two sides to every story, you should always be true to yourself.

  • I love this so much! Workplace etiquette is absolutely required. When I was in the workforce there was always that ONE employee that everyone secretly wished would just get sacked.

    • Aitza B

      Thanks so much, Danielle. I noticed some of my peers making strange comments and realized they never worked in an office. No one wants to be that person

  • candy

    Great advice on networking and making it work for you. We haven’t seen this show but will have to search for it and watch now after reading what the show is about.

  • Liz

    I’ve heard a lot about Insecure but haven’t watched it. My office’s environment is similar though – very quiet, which I enjoy.

  • I am starting a new job in December so this is timely advice. I think the most important thing to remember is that you have two ears and one mouth so you are supposed to listen twice as much as you talk. Rules and expectations change at every position but there are signs everywhere on what is expected.

  • Such helpful and true advice. Totally believe that how you act is a reflection of the company. Now I want to watch Insecure!

  • I love Insecure! Sadly I’m a little behind. I have seen any of this season. Sigh. But your advice is on point nonetheless.

  • Adaleta

    Hmm this is very interesting, I have not seen Insecure but i think I might have to check it out Sounds like it would be great to watch

  • Kim

    When you start a new job, you should always observe how things run and keep comments to yourself until you figure out the climate and who you can confide in.

  • I never even heard of Insecure. It sounds like a show I need to see. I love your analogy of this episode though. There is a definite way to behave in the workplace vs. outside of work.

    • Aitza B

      Definitely give it a try. It’s short 30 minute comedy. I used this because I wanted something that was relatable to my peers. Hopefully they heed this advice. Thanks so much for commenting, Jodi

  • These are great tips, etiquette is important in the workplace. I have not watched Insecure but it sounds like a great show.

  • Jeanine

    These are wonderful tips. I think it’s extremely important to remember to keep your etiquette especially in the work place. I haven’t heard of Insecure before, will have to check it out.

  • I really love this. Great tips. Bookmarking for Later.

  • Amy

    That is true that every work place has a different culture! Sometimes, I am thankful that I am my own boss!! Great tips though!

  • Ruth I.

    I experienced working in an office and I always observe the environment first, making sure I am always doing the right thing. I agree with your tips, it’s not about changing the personality but learning the workplace etiquette.

  • I haven’t heard of Insecure. I work from home now, but when i was employed outside the home not a lot of employee stuck to work etiquette. This makes me glad I work for myself.

  • adriana

    This was a really great read! I think observing and learning about individual places and people is very important. So well written!