How do I as a minority ethnic professional in Scotland behave towards a new colleague who is African?”
Do I immediately feel a bond, introduce myself and share common experiences? Do I see this colleague as the competition? Do I ask “You alrrrright, pal?”
Those were the conversation themes that dominated a recent lunch gathering of Nigerian friends; our musings about our shared immigration experiences mingling contentedly with the aroma of fried rice and fried plantain.
Everyone in the room that day described instances where they immediately introduced themselves and offered to provide information about the culture of the office environment, introduced their new colleague to their immediate team, bought the new colleague lunch or coffee, inquired interestingly about what team the new colleague had joined and how to contact the new colleague.
Reactions were mixed and I for one didn’t always react this way. I would generally give back the same level of warmth I perceive I’m receiving from a new colleague. As I pondered and analysed my own behaviour, I remembered a quote: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
More questions came to mind: Is building relationships with progressive minded colleagues regardless of race one of the keys to a more fulfilling work life?
In the initial interactions with colleagues of African descent, should my behaviour tend towards collaboration or competition? Is this even a common experience amongst all Africans or is it just Nigerians? There are no easy answers, admittedly.
I was still thinking about this when I was distracted by the best line you’ll ever hear when dining with Nigerians: “Do you want more plantain?” Priorities priorities priorities…
Written by Tosin Ogunlesi
Connect with him on LinkedIn here
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