Dear Corporate America,

On a daily basis, most of you have learned how to fake it better than Meg Ryan in, “When Harry Met Sally,” all day, every day. You fake-laugh at jokes. You fake interest in what your clients are saying. You fake-enjoy dull projects. It’s not a bad thing. The powers-that-be call it, “playing the game.” And as long as you’re playing, you may as well play to win, right?

So tuck in your shirt, swallow your frustration and work until you drop. This is the corporate world, baby — where displaying round-the-clock, orgasmic-like satisfaction can take you straight to the top. Here are 5 ways you fake it at work:

When there’s a social gathering at work, you go — even though you don’t always want to.
The Christmas party. So-and-so’s retirement. The “Thank God We’re Done with THAT Client” dinner. While you genuinely like a few of your co-workers, you still wonder, “Don’t these people have families, friends, significant others — somebody else they’d like to spend their precious downtime away from the office with? Isn’t 40+ hours a week enough?” Deep down, you know it’s not. So you go to the event and fake it. “Hi, girl-who-threw-me-under the-bus-two-weeks-ago!” “Hey, secretly-bigoted-guy!” Boy, this sure is fun!

When you have to work overtime, you pretend you don’t mind — even though every fiber of your being is saying, “Hell to the no!”
You don’t have a problem pulling your weight at work. But when pulling your weight means losing your weekend or more than one or two evenings during the week? Not cool. But, you put on your best can-do face. You get the job done. And then, you’re given more work. Man, this just keeps getting better!

You speak differently.
Every moment you’re at work is about showing how intelligent, skilled and capable you are. And anything that detracts from that show is a big no-no, including the use of non-mainstream slang. Even though you’re sometimes tempted to throw out one of Tamar Braxton’s catchphrases or a Jay Z lyric reference, you stop yourself. Because no one would get it but you. In addition to your reference falling flat, you’d look ratchet and uneducated. So you kick the code-switching dog and pony show up a notch: “Helleur, good mornting, how are you derring?” Boy, you sound edjumicated!

You handle conflict in a less direct manner.
People at work have a tendency to be shady or disrespectful in the slyest of ways. Maybe it’s an email that’s a little too curt, or maybe it’s a directive that’s delivered with way too much arrogance. Whatever the case, you’ve been on the receiving end of it, and you’ve gnawed the inside of your bottom lip raw to prevent popping off at work. Because we all know that if you weren’t at work, the incident would likely escalate to something like this:

New York

So what do you do? You find the most polite, calm way to let the other person know that they’ve pissed you off. Or worse, you say nothing. Because you don’t want this to turn into a ‘thing,’ right?!

You’ve accepted that, as the only racial minority/woman/GLBT person in your department, you’re the go-to resource on those issues.
I have a Black friend who works in higher education in Arizona. Now, this friend is probably the healthiest eater on the face of the Earth. She’s vegetarian, has a thing for tofu and munches on rice cakes. While in her office, a colleague pokes her head in and asks matter-of-factly, “Do you know where I can get some southern food?” Now, they’re in Arizona. You can’t get much more southern unless you’re planning on going south of the border. Confused by the question, my friend asks, “What do you mean, ‘southern food’?” The colleague replies, “Oh, you know,” with a wink and a nod, “southern food!” My friend realizes that the colleagues is asking her where she can get some fried chicken, collard greens, neck bones, potato salad, honey ham, macaroni and cheese, chitlins, pig feet and the like. Because if anyone would know where to find southern food, this Black chick would, right? But since my friend doesn’t eat “southern food,” she replies, “Oh, no. I don’t know where to find southern food. I don’t eat it.” The colleague, shocked by my friend’s revelation, utters a, “Hmmm…” and leaves.

Moral of this story? Black folks need to know where the southern food is at all times.


So Corporate America, tell me: Was it as good for you as it wasn’t for me? Sound off with a comment below.