Hello and welcome back to Productivity, Without Privilege friends. I’m your host, Alan Henry, and if you haven’t picked up a copy of Seen, Heard, and Paid: The New Work Rules for the Marginalized, now is your cue to do so! For those of you who have, I thank you immensely. If you have a copy and you’d love me to sign it, or if you want a signed copy, drop me a line and we’ll work it out! I’m just glad to be here with you, once again.
First, a little housekeeping! You may have noticed your once-Monday newsletter is here on a Tuesday! That’s intentional, I promise. I’m taking the advice of a number of my good friends and doing two things: One, bumping the newsletter to Tuesday gives you something to read that’s not part of the hectic Monday morning “gotta-catch-up-with-everything” rush. Two, it means I actually get to enjoy my Sundays before sending this instead of stressing out about making sure you have quality content in your inbox! It’s a win-win, wouldn’t you say?
Let’s jump into it, shall we? This week I want to talk about how to start a work diary.
I’ve given a number of interviews about the book, and even more about just the best way to work and how to protect yourself at work. But between a tweet that I mentioned this morning with data around how women and people of color get performance reviews, and editor Erin Overbey sharing her experiences working at The New Yorker and subsequently losing her job because she dared discuss and document them—the right way, mind you, where you keep track of things and then raise them with your manager and such, the way every corporate presentation tells you that you should—I want to offer some tips to protect yourself if you can.
And this isn’t a “do this because Erin didn’t,” because in those threads, which I definitely implore you to read if you’d like to learn a lot about how issues of diversity in media are handled, but also because it’s a master class in having the evidence and documentation to protect yourself when your employer tries to treat you unfairly, whether you lose your job over it or not. I have every confidence Overbey will win any wrongful termination procedures. Oh also, I should, completely unrelatedly, disclose that I’m an editor at WIRED, which is owned by Conde Nast, who also owns The New Yorker. Anyway, moving on.
When people ask me what a “work diary” looks like, I usually explain to them that it can take whatever form you need it to take. Mine is, most often than not, a Google Doc that I have bookmarked and that I update several times a week usually, and if the day has been really bad, I update it several times a day. I joke that if you’re the type who loves writing in a fancy notebook, buy a fancy notebook and set aside time to write in it. The important thing is that your work diary is in a format you’ll actually use.
Now then, once you have something you’ll write in, whatever format it might be, think less “diary” and think more “captain’s log from Star Trek.” You know the scenes in Star Trek where we’ll get a voiceover of someone relevant to the story, usually the captain, doing a little exposition about how we got where we are and what’s going on? Yeah, they serve to bring you in mentally to a specific headspace before you get into the nitty gritty of what’s happening and what’s interesting to note rather than explain.
So use your work diary to set the stage for events that are worth discussing in more detail, as opposed to actually recounting daily events. You should update it whenever you would, if you were on a long trip and told to keep a record of your experiences, for example. When you meet with your boss and talk about your performance, that’s a notable event worth describing in detail, including who said what and what you agreed to. When you’re assigned to work on a team, your work diary isn’t so much where you need to take minutes of every meeting, but you do want to jot down how well the project is going, who’s on it, who does what, and what your role in it is. When something goes wrong, or there are tense moments on your team, that’s when you need to include as much detail as possible, including any receipts you may need later.
But covering your ass when things are difficult or potentially go wrong is only part of the point here. You want to keep track of your wins and successes in just as much, if not more, detail. When you earn a promotion, this is where you write down everything you were promised, who offered it to you, what all the steps are, and so on. When you get a raise, do the same. Some of that protects you in case you don’t get what you were promised, but it’s also for your own edification. Keeping track of those wins means that you have fodder for future resume updates, and for future conversations with your boss about why you should get a raise or the promotion you’re angling for. And on your worst days, keeping track of all of those wins, small or large, will make you feel better about the impact of your work and why it’s important. Trust me, it can go a long way towards remembering it’ll pass if you just power through the day versus throwing up your hands and saying something you shouldn’t.
Events and noteworthy meetings are important, but it’s also important to check in with yourself periodically in your diary. Make sure you understand the role of your work in the context of the team, the company, and more importantly your career and your goals. If you catch yourself doing a bunch of busywork that isn’t using your skills, or isn’t taking you where you need to go, you’ll be able to identify it early.
A few other things you might consider keeping in your work diary:
The names of people you’d love to work with, have worked well with, and don’t want to work with
Notable promotions, transfers, layoffs, or people who quit your team
Any new opportunities or openings you hear about on other teams
Big ideas, projects, or things you would love to work on at some point
Longer-term goals (write a book, speak at a conference, etc.)
These aren’t all required, of course. Take or leave whichever things work for you and which ones don’t. The bottom line is to think: Remember the last time you wanted proof of something you knew was true but had to convince someone else was true? Remember what that proof was? It deserves a place in your work diary.
"Imagine What We'll Build for One Another": an Interview with Jules Gill-Peterson by Beatrice Adler-Bolton: This was actually an incredibly moving interview. It likely won’t surprise you, but I find that Gill-Peterson has a way of contextualizing exactly how we all feel at this current moment in an extremely elegant way, one that makes you feel seen. I truly don’t want to spoil the reading experience.
Is There Any Way to Measure Whether a Laptop Is Truly ‘Sustainable’? by Kimber Streams: There was a time when sustainability and energy efficiency wasn’t something you thought about when buying a computer or a laptop, but these days I feel like I’m hearing it more often. Whether I’m hearing potential buyers wanting to save money (and the planet,) or whether I’m hearing it as marketing lingo from manufacturers, I’m not sure, but either way, Kimber’s piece for Wirecutter here comes the closest to answering the question as I’ve ever, ever seen.
How Managers Can Disrupt Marginalization at Work by Cari Nazeer: Cheating? Me? Never! This interview was a pleasure, and Cari asked amazing questions. Part of the reason I loved doing this one was because we focused on tips and advice for leaders to provide their teams a sense of psychological safety and do disrupt patterns of marginaliztion when they see it.
Today the Associated Press republished the expose that led to the unraveling of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, on its 50th anniversary. I think a lot of people think that the Tuskegee experiments were a really really long time ago, but it’s important to remember that there are plenty of people alive today who went through them, were involved with them, and lived to see the story come to light.
The piece itself is incredibly affirming, but so is the accompanying Twitter thread, which links out to a bunch of other pieces the AP has published over the years about the experiments, and reactions to the revelations at the time. I heartily recommend looking through it and reading more. Like many events in American history that have to do with the maltreatment of its marginalized groups, I’m willing to bet there’s a lot about it that you may not have learned in school, if you learned about the experiments at all.