Posted on: January 19, 2024 Posted by: Christina Bronner Comments: 1
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Hey there, Upscale family! I’m Watchen Nyanue Hampton, and I’m so excited to kick off our candid career chats in my new career advice column here with Upscale Magazine. Think of me as your work bestie for all things career – from real talk about climbing that corporate ladder to juggling life and work, and everything in between. I’ve been there, done that, and I’m here to share it all with you. I currently run “I Choose the Ladder”, a boutique consulting firm in Chicago that does employee retention, development, and engagement work for companies like Nike, McDonald’s, and Best Buy. You can learn more about me here.

Each month, I’ll be dishing out career advice, sharing my own stories, and maybe even spilling a little tea on how to make it in today’s wild professional corporate world. Whether you’re just starting out, looking for a change, or hustling to make that dream job a reality, I’ve got you. 


If you have a career question that you want answered, send me an email at and it could be answered in one of my upcoming columns. 

Now that we’ve gotten the introduction out of the way, let’s get to this month’s chosen submitted question.


Question: Watchen!!! Do you have any recommendations for books on effective communication and recommendations for maintaining your peace as a black person in white corporate spaces? I’m just tired of being the one that constantly has to prove themself when most times I’m the one with more experience. For example, I had a surgeon who kept using “Black phrases” when I was around, like “Yeah, this is bussing,” and so on. I explained to him what cultural appropriation is and how his language is offensive to me. Instead of acknowledging my being offended, he explained that he learned it from his kids, who got it from TikTok, and that I should be cool with it because of the source. – Maya


Response:  Hi Maya,

Courtesy of Amber Del Rio

Thank you for such thoughtful questions. I’ll start with the easy part to answer. I love reading, and one book that I would highly recommend is “Professional Troublemaker; The Fear-Fighter Manual” by the New York Times Bestselling Author, Luvvie Ajayi Jones. This book has helped so many find their voice! Now, on to the part of your question, that’s a little bit more complicated.

First, I want to say I’m sorry you have to deal with this. Often, people are subjected to emotional labor in an effort to do their jobs, and I know it’s exhausting and unfair. 

I also want to acknowledge that I know you’re in a tricky situation because surgeons typically have a lot of influence and privilege within a hospital. So, you will have to approach this with strategy and not let your anger or frustration drive the interaction. Now, I’m not saying don’t be angry or frustrated because those are valid emotions for this situation. What I am saying is those emotions can’t be in the driver’s seat if you want to get lasting results.

In an ideal situation, you can go to work, do excellent work, and feel psychologically safe. But I understand that while corporate spaces are working towards that, corporate culture is not quite there yet, so if I were in this situation, I would make a direct ask. 

Dr. Jones, I’m not sure if you realized this, but I noticed that you often switch up how you speak when I’m here and don’t do it with other people. While I’m not sure why you do it, it makes me uncomfortable. In the future, if you could {insert the direct ask/changed behavior that you like to see here}, I would appreciate it.” 

If you feel like going a step further, which I would because I like to document things in writing, I would also email him, capturing what we discussed, and add an article or resource that further illustrates why his behavior is problematic from a source he respects. In this specific instance, I might include an article on microaggressions. Not only to teach him but also to have what’s happening in writing. I would only do that ONCE. If it continues to be ignored and I am really over it, I would invite my boss to be a “thought partner” with me on how to solve it so that someone else is also aware of what’s happening.

Ultimately, you have to decide what your threshold for the behavior is and make sure that you are well informed on the options your company has to deal with situations like this if they escalate.


If you need additional help, I invite you to join our free monthly career challenge. During the challenge, we talk about understanding and navigating corporate culture. You can learn more about the free challenge here.


About the Author: Watchen Nyanue is the Founder & CEO of  the boutique consulting firm I Choose the Ladder and an expert talent management strategist, speaker, and facilitator who helps Fortune 500 companies keep their employees from quitting.

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