Consulting

For the first time in my 4 years in consulting I noticed first-hand white privilege at work. Being a white male myself I didn’t realize how real this phenomenon actually is in the workplace.

likefunnysmarthelpfuluplifting
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Long story short: we have quite a diverse team and a partner that is terrible to work with. He regularly lambasts his staff and as I am the manager, I am privy to his comments and feedback on others. Initially I noticed that he was a lot harsh in his feedback and criticism with the non-white people but brushed it aside as my imagination. We recently brought on a junior consultant, who is new to the firm, and happens to be a 6 foot 2 white guy from a wealthy family. He’s a decent consultant, slightly above average. However the praise this consultant is getting is beyond extraordinary, especially from this partner who I have seen lambast others on even the slightest mistake...the consultant has bragged to me multiple times as well the partner has told him “I see a lot of me in you” and it is a bit shocking to me to hear this coupled with the praise- especially since I’m reviewing his work and while not bad it’s nothing extraordinary for someone at his level. The worst part is, the consultant now seems to think that he is some Dalai Lama or Michael Jordan at consulting and not realizing the privilege that is around him, despite the stories he is told about the partner from others at lunch.

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SM4 - Big picture, context, and facts don’t matter to most on this thread. OP (who is white) believes his Partner has racist tendencies bc he (allegedly) favors someone on the team who isn’t OP nor a non-white member of the diverse team that Partner built. In the process of trashing his partner as a racist, OP gets to score social justice points for recognizing his own white privilege (which still doesn’t make sense in this context) and concurrently helps his ego for not having to accept that other white guy may just be a better consultant. Other social warriors on this thread are ecstatic to congratulate OP on his awareness and in the process affirm their own righteousness via their support for OP. And round and round we go.

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Long story short: we have quite a diverse team and a partner that is terrible to work with. He regularly lambasts his staff and as I am the manager, I am privy to his comments and feedback on others. Initially I noticed that he was a lot harsh in his feedback and criticism with the non-white people but brushed it aside as my imagination. We recently brought on a junior consultant, who is new to the firm, and happens to be a 6 foot 2 white guy from a wealthy family. He’s a decent consultant, slightly above average. However the praise this consultant is getting is beyond extraordinary, especially from this partner who I have seen lambast others on even the slightest mistake...the consultant has bragged to me multiple times as well the partner has told him “I see a lot of me in you” and it is a bit shocking to me to hear this coupled with the praise- especially since I’m reviewing his work and while not bad it’s nothing extraordinary for someone at his level. The worst part is, the consultant now seems to think that he is some Dalai Lama or Michael Jordan at consulting and not realizing the privilege that is around him, despite the stories he is told about the partner from others at lunch.

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SM4 - Big picture, context, and facts don’t matter to most on this thread. OP (who is white) believes his Partner has racist tendencies bc he (allegedly) favors someone on the team who isn’t OP nor a non-white member of the diverse team that Partner built. In the process of trashing his partner as a racist, OP gets to score social justice points for recognizing his own white privilege (which still doesn’t make sense in this context) and concurrently helps his ego for not having to accept that other white guy may just be a better consultant. Other social warriors on this thread are ecstatic to congratulate OP on his awareness and in the process affirm their own righteousness via their support for OP. And round and round we go.

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Thank you for taking the time to realize what could be happening. Awareness of unconscious bias is key. You are in a very powerful position to help those around you get the feedback they need or deserve. If you think it is appropriate, could you highlight the positive contributions of your other team members to the partner?

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likesmartfunny
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It is hard to change perceptions. All you can do is try and be fact based. If he says he actually liked something you can say “I’ll share that with x, he did a lot to contribute to that output” or “Y had a really insightful idea, you should have her present it”. As far as the overachiever I wouldn’t try and calibrate downwards but maybe mention, “ I would like to help Z improve on these 3 dimensions. I’ve seen these behaviors that I think he could work on. How would you suggest I help him improve?”

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This isn’t hard to understand. You can’t just disregard nearly 400 years of wealth and education attainment and declare that you don’t benefit from it at a societal level LOL. If the average white person lost everything...job, savings, home, etc. There is someone in their family that they could live with for 2-5 months while they got their life back together. Even if it meant sleeping on a couch, there is some relative that could provide that basically level of security for the average white person. Most black people (and many other minorities) don’t have that. If I lose my job and go broke I am homeless. It’s not because my family doesn’t love me, it’s not because my friends don’t care, it’s because they don’t have the financial ability to keep me afloat and themselves afloat too. They can’t afford for their bills to go up. That’s the difference. Recognize the small ways in which you are privileged, you don’t need a trust fund to be a privileged person. Having an old white man who could determine the course of your career “see himself” in you counts too. They never see themselves in me, they just tell me that I’m “different” from others like myself. Who they see as thugs....

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likesmartupliftinghelpful
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Notice that there has been zero response to this.

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In a major US city, I was in line at a sandwich shop. One guy in the line was black. The shop clerk asked the black man if he was the Grubhub delivery person. The black man was in the middle of the line reading the menu, he was clearly a customer, dressed no differently than the rest of us, and yet this happened. As a white person, I have learned that observing how others around us are treated can be a good education about what white privilege really is. It is a privilege because not everyone has it, not because we get more than we think we are entitled to out of it.

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likeuplifting
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@consultant 8 I am a minority race and I am not offended by the word colored by I can see why it’s offensive. Sorry I didn’t mean it . *minority I guess would be the politically correct word

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Here is a story how a company that I worked for took an interesting and different approach: The company is a vendor that provides services to big O&G. Being able to schmooze old-white-male clients is essential to land large deals. The company's global sales VP decided to create an inclusion program. He started the sales golf league, funded by the company. Lessons for beginners included. The teams were a mix of old-white sales executives and non-white, non-male younger team members. He also started funding sports watching happy hours. The experienced sales leaders included the younger, diverse teammates on their after hours sales socializing with the clients. I've seen many members of that program, Asian, African American, become successful sales directors. It is true that over the years, some of them use to live in the cooler parts of the city, and now they are all SUV trotting white picket fence walking dead - but the bonuses! Golf, Football, and killing helpless creatures in the weekends is just part of being good ol' fashion American and it's not going away anytime soon. Might as well join them. (Mixed race male here. I used to be a rock climber, now I play golf in the weekends. I wait for my next prostate exam to feel alive again)

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likefunnyupliftinghelpful
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Yeah you’re right - they are missing out, and yet no one does it. And people are still doing fine without it. Which means that either the number of Indians in leadership positions in Tech is too less OR business doesn’t work like that for Indian leaders in Tech. You exceeded sales targets by making friends yes. But do you think being friends with your clients and winning work means that the best person is winning the work? Again not targeting you, but generally pointing out what I’ve noticed.

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We are all privileged in soo many ways.. I bet most of us had the ability to go to college, parents that cared for us, fed us, and hopefully didn’t abuse us.. There are many things we should all be thankful for that we had little or no control over. Obviously we have all worked hard to get where we are, but need to be aware of those advantages we had and implicit biases we all possess. Think about it... if you were born to black parents who were in and out of jail growing up... or even blue collar parents... what is the likelihood of becoming a partner at a consulting firm? Thinking about stuff like this makes me really appreciate what people like Michelle Obama have achieved. Born black in south Chicago to working class parents and went to Harvard Law. And I bet you given where she grew up, she felt very privileged to have 2 parents that cared for her.

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likeupliftinghelpful
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Smh... and all lives matter too... right? These responses are so furstrating to read.

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Similar story here - my boyfriend is a tall white man, and he told me of one experience where he was part of a team meeting their clients for the first time. The team lead was a short Asian woman, and the rest of the team mixed-gender non-whites. He said that although he was no more talkative than any of the other team members, the clients obviously paid the most attention to him, e.g. giving him eye contact when asking questions or making a point, over his team lead. I think that's when the penny dropped for him...

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likesmart
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Nice job at recognizing it OP! Awareness goes a long but i guess it also falls on you to educate your counterparts, because your words would go a long way as opposed to a POC saying something. Which usually ends up with « no such thing as white privileged » or my personal favorite « not everything is always about race »

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OP — thank you for posting this and thank you for your awareness. FWIW, I think you will make a much better leader than the Partner on your case. I am a white female who’s been in this industry for 15 years. I’ve seen unfairness, but the Partner’s and the junior consultant’s behavior still made me so mad. I don’t know how much power you have to “straighten” the junior guy, but I hope some (and not suggesting that you take personal risk). Oh and the Partner can really go f himself.

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Not about what the junior guy is doing wrong: it sounds like it’s obliviousness, more than anything, and that’s not really his fault. It’s about what the partner is doing wrong

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99% of it is being of a similar background to leadership and having similar interests... drinking, golfing, strip clubs, etc.. things that would likely be inappropriate for a middle aged man to be doing with a young woman subordinate Obviously you need to perform your job well. But if you have a close relationship and people like you that goes far...

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SM3 it’s about managing perceptions at home as well as work. Plenty of firms have women’s initiatives to allow women to network and connect, so these options exist. If I do have to eat 1:1 with a woman - very very rare - it’s using the drive through or with no alcohol if sit down, and I have a couple times but the rules have to be laid out in today’s world of #metoo. Sorry to offend but I avoid even that scenario

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Oh MD 1 - your white male fragility is showing. “I am white but doesn’t mean I have bee priveleged” implies you have no idea what white privilege means. I suggest you educate yourself a bit

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It’s not bias. It’s the perfect example of the privilege/assumption/benefit of the doubt white males receive. We’ve been conditioned to expect that an MD is a white male. If MD1’s user name was “teacher” or “nurse” the default assumption may be that the person is a woman. Don’t jump on P2 for providing a real time example of what we are talking about. As a black woman I make assumptions too. Sometimes they are wrong but they confirm to the bias built into society and I make every effort to self correct and not assume based on stereotype.

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OP, there are way too many comments in this thread and I avoid crowds like this as a rule, but sincerely, thank you for picking up on this. It happens every single time I’m out with a random partner and a white coworker. You may not do anything about this but even acknowledgement is a huge step. Just wanted to say thanks.

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I tell my white friends, I am reminded that I am black EVERYDAY. I know It's hard for them to understand, but here are a few examples: -I am the only black person in this meeting, so don't mess up. -I'm the only black person amongst the team out for lunch, so be careful of voicing my opinion on a particular topic. I do not represent the entire black community. -Cashier ask for my ID to use my corporate card, but didn't ask my white colleagues. I can complain or address, but don't want to come off as the "angry" black person. Dealing with all of these scenerios throughout the day can be exhausting!

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OMG... Yes! I repeat "I'm the only black/PoC or woman in this room/meeting don't mess this up" to myself so often it's almost like it's my daily mantra. White men don't have to carry themselves as the single representative of their gender or culture everywhere they go, so they don't understand the weight this brings.

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People who defend white privilege, either (a) confuse it with white supremacy or (b) equate their struggle while being white with how good Oprah's got it.

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likehelpful
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The people who don’t see it don’t want to. I see the same with light skinned black women who say we experience the same troubles as darker skinned women. We don’t. Our white-adjacent skin is a privilege, just like my parents being college educated, and just like my grandparents still owning their home. Almost everyone has some sort of leg up in certain situations. White men just have the most legs up because most situations were built by them, and thus, for them.

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An example of why representation matters 🗣. I too want black partners that will give me the benefit of the doubt, and look forgivingly past mistakes because they see their younger self or daughter in me

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I fully agree with this. Representation at top level matters. Here is where trickle down privilege works.

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I’m white and I don’t get this white privilege thing. I’m married into a wealthy, non-white family. I struggled out of school working in a fast-food Chain after college because I couldn’t get a job. My mother commutes full-time an hour each way and is in her seventies and barely keeps up on her mortgage. My father died in a small, run down apartment. I only left the country once before I was 30. I got pulled over all the time by the police because I drove old cars. I even got stopped walking down a country road. My wife went to an elite school that took boarders, went to a selective college, traveled Europe on break while in college on her parents’ dime, had her parents to buy her first place while she lived mortgage-free. Privilege is primarily social class, not race. There are isolated instances that happen due to race, which is unfortunate, but there are also a number of causal factors in addition to race. Society is increasingly focused on race, and yet we’re doing little to help people get ahead but have people blame race on their personal shortcomings. We as a society need to solve problems and resolve these causal factors that prevent people from fulfilling their goals, and we may find what holds people back are not racially-caused. I can think of many poor white people who are born without a chance to succeed— I grew up in a small town, where I saw many people struggling to get by. I was almost one of them

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likesmart
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I remember from my MBA marketing course... when doing research never use yourself unless you are in the demographic. If you are in the demographic, definitely don’t use yourself for the research. Please look into other sources to understand more about this topic. Note, I am not questioning your experiences at all (with no sarcasm or negative tone, I thank you for share), I am questioning your research methods and sample size.

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In this thread: people who get defensive about white privilege but don't understand the term.

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likefunny
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I don't think its ever been used as a term of endearment. The word Privilege seems to say that its something we all are happy to have and enjoy all of the time. It cheapens the hard work that I have done to get where I am to boost the work you have done to get there. Fact of the matter is you don't know what it took for me to get here and I don't know what it took for you. This is the same in the office. In my 25 year career, I've had the priviledge of working for more people of color than white people, I've had the priviledge of working for more women than men (and I'm in SAP). I currently work for a Mexican female sr director, who reports to a female Indian VP, who reports to female Indian CIO. Its a priviledge to work in this organization and learn from this group. I am not privileged to have your bias against me because of your perceptions of how I got to where I am.

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It cracks me up that the world seems to think all white people spend their summers in Martha's Vineyard on the Kennedy's yacht getting told who the next 4 presidents are going to be.

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likefunny
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That’s not what white privilege is, you’re missing the entire point— if you read the comments here and do a bit of research, it’s a very simple concept to understand.

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Folks saying “you can’t possibly know whether it was white privilege” or “not all whites are privileged.” We know. We’re not asking for you to apologize, we just need you to recognize this exists. Hopefully not too many cases are straight up white privilege—but in the numerous instances of unfairness that occur every day, the amount of this privilege, even if it’s a portion of the root cause, keeps building certain people higher and others lower. That’s not hard to recognize.

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Recognizing it exists and saying it was the direct cause of this partner taking a liking to this employee, in this very specific instance, and blaming it 100% on that are two completely different things.

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