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The Code

There has been a funny change in the way we communicate in the last 20 or so years. There has been a reemergence of hieroglyphics as a communication style colloquially referred to as 'emojis'. Language is constantly changing. There was a time when being on the phone meant you couldn't see nonverbal communication keys, enter FaceTime. Technology and the changing of times continues to change the way we communicate. There is a relatively new emoji that left me more puzzled than some of the others, even more puzzled than the hilarious "prayer hands" v. "high-five" debate. 🙏🏿

My sister was applying for a new grant for her nonprofit. I was so hoping that she received this grant to continue to serve teen-girls (see TWICE for more information). I saw this emoji and immediately thought, ohhh this is perfect 'fingers-crossed' you get it. Hopefully.

Think to a time way back when nonverbal communication was a huge indicator of what someone was trying to say. I’m talking the early 2000s, 1990s and earlier. We used to do silly things that were remnants of the times before. Kid things remained like, crossing our fingers behind our backs signifying: ‘I’m lying.’

But there was also some overlap in nonverbal language cues. For instance, that same cross-fingered hand position meant something completely different when your hands were in front of your body versus behind your back. They could mean the hopeful signal of “fingers-crossed” we get into Howard University, hopefully. They were a sign of promise, opportunity, and most of all hope.

Hope v. Lies

I casually shot my sister this “fingers-crossed” emoji when she had a project deadline that had her just up against a tight due date. Then I thought to myself: Technically, that emoji can mean either in a text message conversation.

  1. I hope you can find a new partner and move on. “finger-crossed” emoji

  2. I hope you get the grant. You deserve it. “fingers-crossed” emoji

That duplicitous first example I would call a bold face lie, but others may call it simply passive-aggression.

I’d say there is a great other equivalent that has emerged in the new virtual workspace.

There are other in-person vs. virtual communication-miscommunications as well.

Losing connection v. Hanging up a Zoom Call

Hanging up in someone's face has long been considered rude. In a workspace respectful communication is important, because people aren't given the option because it is a forced collaborative space. While lost connections do happen we all know that there is a passive aggressive 'I lost connection' where during a difficult or uncomfortable situation the person pretend to lose connection but in actuality have hung up. Its a joke over wine in front of the fireplace: '...Then I pretended to lose connection'.

Or to the black woman, ‘oh these mother-fuckers got me fucked up. So I just closed my laptop'.

I had a boss who wanted to get an emotional reaction out of me, she thought that because I didn't get flustered emotionally that I was apathetic about my work. But, I grew up with a big temper, as anyone who has learned to manage that trait effectively you know what once you have a cap on it, usually it needs to stay pretty tight. I'm not invested enough in many projects to un-cap that unhealthy anger. I prefer my health to reacting emotionally at work, very little can stress me out, even if I mess up or am in a tough conversation where my work in being questioned, because its just work, and I always choose peace over the job I perform.

But she was being so blatantly manipulative in an attempt to assert authority. Because I am smart and that intimidates a lot of people, especially when its my superior (it happens a lot). She was trying to get a reaction through, right down to referencing my brothers accident (See Jeremiah’s Journey) as a time when my ‘focus’ was off and I ‘missed deadlines’ and expressed she’d been ‘gracious enough’. She wanted me to be upset because she was upset, it was obvious. I was disgusted, but like I said, I’m not one to react to incitement. I finally redirected the conversation back to proactive solutions: “What is it that you are asking me to do again?” We’d gone in such circles. “What do you want from me.” “For you to be present.” It was not real feedback. Present for what? When was I not present?

After returning from having COVID-19 (and still suffering with COVID Brain) my performance was great. Not stellar. Not magnificent. But great work. Above good work. And this was the feedback I received. “Be present.” This is was what we black women commonly referred to as a Personality PIP, feedback on not liking my personality and general demeanor disguised as a critique of my work, which is why she was unable to give more specific examples.

My voice cracked from frustration, cracked, not screamed of yelled just a distressed sound.

At that exact moment my connection was lost and the call was dropped.

I sent an immediate Slack message, “Sorry internet dropped.”

She responded “That’s ok If you need a moment.”

But I don't lie, my call had dropped.

Because: Oh baby I was not letting that ‘be present’ feedback linger in the air…that is NOT feedback. I find alignment in the top-level strategy and create a system at my level compatible with the overall alignment of the company, Not just the product, not just the business, but the brand and with the number of resources and motivation from which departments to get the most efficient work done in the ‘low hanging fruit’. Oh my God, I was a machine, especially considering what I was going through personally.

Hang up for what? Why is that 'ok' in her mind. I quickly responded, "No, let me jump back on. I wouldn't do that, I think thats very rude."

But she made it seem like it was an appropriate reaction to being upset by her. Which I vehemently disagree with, I think hanging up is one of the most disrespectful things you can do. I have

I get along with white men for the same reason. They think the ‘strong black woman’ version of myself that I bring to corporate America is who I really am. That’s not true, that’s my thug. That’s the Kendra that wasn’t raised IN the Cypress, Texas suburbs but BY parents from First Ward Houston and South Oak Cliff, Dallas. I don't run, I don't hang up, I'm eloquent I can explain and stand up to scrutiny, I believe in my work because I work hard and I am smart.

It reminded me of a time an in-person disagreement happened.

I had a peer run out of a Human Resources meeting. Equal to me to the "I lost connection" stunt. She hadn’t followed protocol and she admittedly was “pretending” to write me up in a previous meeting. She started ignoring us and diddling on her phone and then ultimately stormed out. The same, in my opinion as 'losing connection'.

(White people this is ok? Y'all make the rules in corporate America)

Losing connection. Pretending to have dropped a Zoom call in a moment of frustration.

Hanging up a zoom call. Running out of a room. She was never reprimanded either.

One of the things we have to decide in corporate America is what code to we use? Are we liars? Manipulators? Opportunists? Are we ethical? Fair? Loving? Respectful? The answer might seem easy. But think of your day-in day-out work. Think of the agenda being pushed. What code are you living by?

We have to decide if we are crossing our fingers in front of or behind our back when we say we want a better non-exploitative, diverse love-filled future. We have to decide what code we live by, hope or lies.

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