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The impact of racism in the workplace. Mental Health Awareness Week

My name is Nicola, hello.

My company FP Comms is a 15 years vision, which I brought to life on 22nd May 2012.

Today, as we have just secured our client’s coverage with over 100 bloggers, articles in the Guardian and The Independent.

Building relationships with some of the most powerful and influential journalists and connecting with major international media platforms, I reflect on my journey to this point.

How did FP Comms become a reality? As I mentioned, I have worked on FP Comms’ vision for the past 15 years.  Although at the time it did not have a name and I did not know how the business would manifest itself, all I knew is that I wanted a space where I could help people to use their voice in their industry, claim their own destiny and claim their piece of financial control. In fact, it started when I was working at a company as a Marketing Assistant.  I loved the company and the people I worked with.  I was one of the very few people of colour, but honestly, it was not an issue that affected me at all.  I was petite, agile and looked younger than my years, so life was great.  One of my favourite aspects of my job was organising events and also writing press releases.  Our weekly newsletters were always fun, if stressful to pull together.  But on the whole, life was good.

One day my working world came crashing down around me, and it left me in a tailspin.  Earlier on in the week, a thief had entered the building and stole a handbag.

As it was customary, the CCTV camera tapes were pulled, and some of the tech team were viewing the recordings to see if they could identify the culprit.  On this particular day, I was having lunch with the Tech Team when the MD popped by to watch the tape. As he entered the room, one of the tech guys let the MD know that they had recorded an unidentified man in the building and he seemed to be the culprit.  The guy was an average sized, black male.  What followed the MD seeing the footage was this comment; “well I guess we should try to identify the guy as we do not want people to mistaken Nicola as the thief”.

As GOD is my witness (even now as I recollect I feel the emotion of that moment), I froze and ran simultaneously out of the room. I was mortified.  I was lost for words and unable to respond coherently. In no uncertain terms, I was confronted with my vulnerability.  I was ashamed and humiliated; I was angry and afraid all at the same time.  I had barely reached the front of the building when one of the women said to me, you can sue him.  I went home afraid to even think about what had happened, never less confront it. It had really brought to the forefront my insecurities about racial bias. Like so many people, I suffer from deep-rooted insecurities about aspects of myself.  And here it was in one statement I felt was faced with all of those fears.

  • I was compared to a man
  • I was stereotyped for my race
  • I was compared to a criminal.

However, the one thing I was able to draw upon was my ability to pull myself away from the emotion and practically manage the situation.

I quickly got to the ‘I am going to show you’.  But how? At this moment, I was taught, but only later, learnt two valuable lessons.

1. That my being in love with the organisation did not entitle me to receive love from them in return.  The only entitlement I had was a paycheck, based on my contract.  If I wanted a company that valued me and my well-being, that was my responsibility, either I had to search for that type of company or create one.

2. If I wanted to really make a difference I could not look at this from an ‘I’ perspective, this is a ‘we’ issue. I was experiencing precisely what many before have and will continue to go through.  However, I have the power to change it if I chose to.

Surely I could do something, but what? On reflection it is evident, that it was at that moment I chose to take my destiny in my own hands and build my own business and help others to do the same. As I reflect on my voiceless response that day, I know that many people suffered and are suffering discrimination in the workplace, felt or still do feel voiceless, but instead of staying in that situation, they have started out on their own to create their own business empire.

Today’s entrepreneur or business person needs to overcome many hurdles to achieve business success.  However, after my experience (it was one of a few), I made my way to make the transition from being an employee to becoming an employer. FP Comms is founded on the principle of helping people to build amazing businesses, where the staff is treated in the same way the MD would like to be treated, (MD is staff BTW – #justsaying).  It is just not beneficial to treat people with disdain or make disparaging comments like that, with no appreciation of the impact it can have on the lives of others. That said, it is indeed comments like these that have created a new wave of business and some of the most amazing entrepreneurs.  It has pushed many of us to meditate on ourselves and contemplate our individual as well as global responsibilities.

Today, I share with you the fact that although this particular MD’s comment was highly insulting (at the very least), I am beginning to see the fruits of my labour come to fruition.  I work with some of the most beautiful businesses, brands and team, who offer a refreshing approach to the entrepreneurial landscape and economic growth of our society.

Today, as I build FP Comms with the tagline #MarketingwithLove I make a promise to myself, never to be voiceless again. I stand shoulder to shoulder with others, whose journey has forced them to realise their vision on their own terms, in a loving way that creates better employment opportunities for future generations. Although it may not be an easy process, I encourage you to keep building amazing businesses, because we need fantastic firms and employers to work with and for.

Author: Nicola Millington has worked in marketing for over 20 years and is dedicated to building future leading brands.   

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