A Healthy Dose of Paranoia
I’ve seen first hand how coworkers/work friends can quickly turn on someone they’ve been very tight with for a number of years. There are all sorts of motivations for betrayals in the workplace, including Black on Black betrayal for the benefit of a White coworker, supervisor, manager or the company at large. The biggest mistake a Black worker can make, who’s being racially targeted, is to assume that Black workers can be absolutely trusted and that they have your best interests at heart.
Yes, there are going to be true friends in the workplace. These people aren’t work buddies. They are real friends. These people may be the type to have your back, to stick up for you, to speak out for you, etc. However, many people fear for their own careers and livelihood, when they see someone else being targeted. This is especially true in race-related incidents. Other Blacks will often feel that they might be the victim of harassment or retaliation for sticking up for a Black coworker. As a result, they may decide to support the company stance on the targeted employee. For instance, they may stop going to lunch with the target and/or may go out of their way to avoid having contact with someone they were so-called friends with.
While there may be a real friend or two at work, there are other Black workers who may not object to being used as a pawn against a Black coworker. They may do this simply to cause trouble or for reward. For instance, they may be promised a promotion, bonus, etc. for signing fraudulent documents making malicious claims against a Black coworker or they may be rewarded for their silence. My former employer began to give bonuses, special/out-of-cycle merit increases, and other awards to Black coworkers that were either silent or complicit in targeting a Black manager the company wanted to force out of the job. They all knew they were being rewarded and some bragged outright about why they were suddenly getting significant or special financial consideration. They had no shame and went along with the company through action or silence.
Because you can never tell which way someone is going to go, when a race-based bomb blows up at work, it’s best to be cautious. If you have a Black coworker suddenly and frequently asking you about what’s going on and what you plan to do about it, specifically if you’re filing an external complaint or going to a lawyer, you should be suspicious. Don’t trust anyone who always seems to be looking for information from you about your problem at work. This person may be approaching you for information at the behest of a supervisor, manager or some other member of authority.
I always say that it’s good to have a bit of paranoia at work, when a race-based problem has cropped up. While you hope your friends or other Black coworkers would be supportive and would not join efforts to harm you, you can never be sure which friends will turn out to be enemies.