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Management article
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Reference no. 2187
Published by: Harvard Business Publishing
Published in: "Harvard Business Review - OnPoint", 2002

Abstract

This is an enhanced edition of HBR article R0211E, originally published in November 2002. HBR OnPoint articles include the full-text HBR article, plus a synopsis and annotated bibliography. It''s easy for white managers to assume that their colleagues of color face the same basic challenges they do. On one level, that''s true - the work itself is the same. But on another level, African-American managers often contend with an atmosphere of tension, instability, and distrust that can be so frustrating they lose the desire to contribute fully. Their white bosses and co-workers are simply unaware of the ‘miasma’ and are often puzzled when African-Americans quit apparently for no reason or seemingly overreact to a minor incident. This portrayal of what it''s like to be different in the workplace takes the form of a fictional letter from a black manager to a white boss. The letter, based on interviews and surveys the authors conducted with hundreds of mid- to senior-level African-American managers, is not about the lack of role models or mentors of color or any of the other barriers that limit opportunities for blacks in corporate America. Instead, the letter sheds light on the realities that lurk below the surface for black managers - the feeling that they leave some part of their identities at home and the sometimes subtle and often systemic racial biases that inhibit and alienate African-Americans. It should be required reading for all white executives who don''t want talent to slip through their fingers.

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Abstract

This is an enhanced edition of HBR article R0211E, originally published in November 2002. HBR OnPoint articles include the full-text HBR article, plus a synopsis and annotated bibliography. It''s easy for white managers to assume that their colleagues of color face the same basic challenges they do. On one level, that''s true - the work itself is the same. But on another level, African-American managers often contend with an atmosphere of tension, instability, and distrust that can be so frustrating they lose the desire to contribute fully. Their white bosses and co-workers are simply unaware of the ‘miasma’ and are often puzzled when African-Americans quit apparently for no reason or seemingly overreact to a minor incident. This portrayal of what it''s like to be different in the workplace takes the form of a fictional letter from a black manager to a white boss. The letter, based on interviews and surveys the authors conducted with hundreds of mid- to senior-level African-American managers, is not about the lack of role models or mentors of color or any of the other barriers that limit opportunities for blacks in corporate America. Instead, the letter sheds light on the realities that lurk below the surface for black managers - the feeling that they leave some part of their identities at home and the sometimes subtle and often systemic racial biases that inhibit and alienate African-Americans. It should be required reading for all white executives who don''t want talent to slip through their fingers.

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