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Healing from Disappointment: A Woman of Color's Leadership Journey in a Challenging Workplace

The moment I received the job offer, my heart swelled with excitement and anticipation. I envisioned bringing my full self, spectrum of skills and expertise to the role, eagerly looking forward to making a significant impact. There was a strong sense of certainty in me – a belief that this was the environment where I would not only thrive but also contribute at a high level.


As I reflect on my journey, I recall the high moments vividly – times when my ideas were embraced, when my leadership made a tangible difference, when the teams I led achieved milestones. These were the moments that validated my excitement and reaffirmed my belief in my abilities and high-level contribution.


However, with these highs came the lows – moments that tested my resilience and strength as a woman of color in a leadership position. There were times when I found myself going to great lengths to shield my team from the organizational undercurrents that I was all too familiar with. These were the instances that called for more than just professional acumen; they required a deep sense of empathy and protectiveness towards those I led.


But perhaps the most challenging aspect of my journey was developing strategies to safeguard my own spirit and soul from the harm and disappointment that came with the role. It was a stark realization – the job that I had entered with so much hope and enthusiasm was also the source of profound emotional and mental strain.


This duality of experience – of highs and lows, of excitement and disappointment – I know is not unique. It speaks to the complexities many navigate in professional settings that are often not designed to support or understand our unique perspectives and challenges.

This is a tale many of us know too well. A job that promised growth, respect, and the opportunity to shine with your skills and contributions, slowly morphs into a source of pain and disillusionment. I've been there - where what started as a dream job became a daily struggle, leaving me as a mere shell of my former self, striving to shield my team, often at my own expense.

My journey, while filled with its share of challenges, has also been a powerful learning experience. It has taught me the importance of resilience, the necessity of self-care, and the need to establish boundaries and when to simply walk away. It has shown me the strength that comes from vulnerability and the courage required to advocate for oneself.

As I continue to navigate my professional path, these experiences serve as reminders of both the progress made and the work that still needs to be done in creating organizational cultures that are truly inclusive and empowering for women of color in leadership.



The Road to Healing: Tips for Bouncing Back

  1. Acknowledge Your Feelings: The first step in healing is acknowledging your emotions. Allow yourself to feel the disappointment, sadness, or anger. It's okay to grieve the loss of what you thought this job would be.

  2. Reflect on the Experience: Take time to reflect on what happened. What were the turning points? What did you learn about yourself and the kind of work environment you thrive in? This reflection is crucial for growth.

  3. Seek Support: Don't go through this alone. Lean on your support network - friends, family, or even a professional counselor. Talking about your experiences can be incredibly therapeutic and provide new perspectives.

  4. Rebuild Your Confidence: Disappointing job experiences can shake your confidence. Engage in activities that remind you of your strengths and skills. This could be as simple as a hobby you excel in or volunteering in a field you're passionate about.

  5. Set Boundaries: If you're still in the role, it’s vital to set healthy boundaries. Learn to say no, delegate, and protect your time and energy. This also means not taking work-related stress home.

  6. Focus on Self-Care: Prioritize your well-being. Whether it's exercise, meditation, pursuing a hobby, or just getting enough sleep, self-care is vital for mental and emotional recovery.

  7. Plan Your Next Move: When you’re ready, start thinking about your next career move. Use the insights gained from this experience to look for roles that align better with your values and needs.

  8. Embrace Learning: Every experience, no matter how tough, offers valuable lessons. Embrace these as learning opportunities that have equipped you with resilience and a clearer understanding of what you need and will deserve in a work environment.

  9. Stay Optimistic: Maintain a positive outlook for the future. Believe in the possibility of finding a job that aligns with your aspirations and values.

  10. Give It Time: Healing is not instantaneous. Give yourself the grace to heal at your own pace. Be patient with your journey.


In my own journey, the search for psychological safety has become a guiding principle in choosing my professional engagements. It's no longer just about the role, the salary, or the prestige of the organization. It's about finding spaces where I can thrive without the constant need to shield myself from potential harm.


As organizations strive to create more inclusive and diverse workplaces, understanding and implementing psychological safety is key. It’s not just a matter of policy; it’s a culture that needs to be nurtured and a commitment that must be upheld. For Black women, and indeed for all, it’s a step towards a more equitable and empowering professional world.

Author, Dr. Debra Y Griffith, CEO, Do Better Executive Coaching


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