WOCA 2022: Fireside Chat: Healing from Workplace Trauma

Minda Harts, workplace equity subject matter expert, professor of public service at NYU and the author of three books, shared her experience with workplace trauma at the Women of Color and Their Allies event (WOCA).

The WOCA session, titled “Fireside Chat: Healing from Workplace Trauma,” featured a discussion between Harts and Carolynn Johnson, CEO of Fair360, formerly DiversityInc.

“I thought about the courage of all the black women who had come before me, the ones that we know about, the ones that we don’t know about,” said Harts. “I am a direct beneficiary of their courage, but who was going to be a beneficiary of my courage? Are they just going to inherit the same workplace that I inherited?”

Harts experienced abuse in the workplace, which she said included her efforts being overlooked while simultaneously being sought out for extra work. She is an advocate for the importance of recognizing abuse experienced in the workplace, unpacking it and healing from the trauma.

“As women of color, we’ve normalized the mistreatment in the workplace. The intention might not have been bad, but the constant harm is damaging to us.”

Harts says that the first step is to acknowledge that the abuse is happening. The second step is deciding whether or not you will do something about it. Most microaggressions get swept under the rug, but ultimately, ignoring the abuse — or acting out a “survival mechanism” instead of a “thriving mechanism” — is doing a disservice to the next generation. If we don’t put in the work, the next generation will inherit the same traumas that women and women of color are currently experiencing.

Harts gives a plan of action when workplace abuse occurs:

  1. You don’t have to respond or defend yourself immediately.
  2. Acknowledge what occurred at that it is harmful so that you can confront it.
  3. Document the occurrence so that you don’t question yourself if the abuse is actually happening or not.
  4. Redistribute the energy, which is part of your healing.
  5. Affirm yourself.

“I will protect my healing by any means necessary because I like the healthy version of myself much better than the version that’s walking on eggshells. I get to finally meet the healthy me. It’s not about bringing your authentic self to work — it’s about bringing your healthiest self to work.”

Watch all the sessions from our 2022 Women of Color and Their Allies event here!