Column: Dear Black Girl With A Job

By: Brook Ellis


I’m Brook, and I’m a Black girl with a job just like you! I’ve worked at major corporations, and I’ve worked at places where my paycheck bounced. I’ve seen it all, and I’m here to give you the “best friend” advice you need to thrive in the modern minefield that is the workplace. If you have a career question drop me a line at (I promise to never tell you to lean in).

Dear Black Girl With A Job --

So I work on a tiny team with people who are, let's say, very open with each other and always in each other's business. They are friends on Facebook and IG and stay referencing things that they post. That's not me: I got the requests, but I'm not about to open up my life for my coworkers to discuss on a coffee break. My friends say I should loosen up and that it could help professionally (I'm asking for a promotion this year). I just want to keep a line between my personal and private life. Am I wrong??


Invasion of Privacy

Dear Invasion of Privacy,

Hard no (as in, you are absolutely right). I would never tell you to accept a co-workers friend request because I leave those things on read too. We’re already in each other’s faces nine hours a day, why do you want to see more of me? My policy is, only when we stop being co-workers can we become Facebook friends. When asked, this is exactly what I tell co-workers. It’s nothing personal, it’s just my policy. They may have hurt feelings, you may lose brownie points, but keeping yourself (and your sanity) intact is more important.

Despite having rules for everything else under the sun, most companies do not have guidelines for social media etiquette in the workplace. This makes it hard to establish and maintain appropriate boundaries. Couple that with being forced to hand over personal cellphone numbers, weekend work texts, and emails that pop up at all hours, and it’s easy to see why you feel like your own space is being invaded. Handing over the keys to your socials, when you don’t actually want to, will only intensify that feeling. So don’t do it!

Being the only person in your office that feels this way does not obligate you to share more of your personal life than you are comfortable with. On the flip side, it may be excruciatingly hard, but try not to judge your co-workers. For them, this may be a fun way to interact, or it could be that they have begrudgingly given in to the same kind of pressure you’re feeling.

Moving on to that promotion, I once had a boss say to me “People around here don’t get promotions just because they deserve them.” And damn Gina, it hurt to hear, but I appreciated being told the truth. There can be an unnecessary and unfortunate popularity component to getting a promotion. Gaining favor in the workplace can feel like the ultimate Game of Thrones. I hate to tell you this, but sometimes you’re going to have to play. However, if you aren’t comfortable with this particular game, it’s better to opt out. It’s hard to win at a game you hate playing. Don’t give up, instead, look for a way to engage with your co-workers that doesn’t make you want to rip out your nose hairs

Do you want to submit a question about your day to day life as a black girl with a job? Email me at