TCDLive Weekend Lounge Talk Show

The TCDLive Weekend Lounge talk show aims to bring forth dialogue that often do not get the attention or people find it difficult to engage in. With the talk show as a medium guest and attendees explore a wide range of topics that could help them fully realize and reach their potential.

Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed during the TCDLive Weekend Lounge show/series are solely those of the individuals, authors, guest speakers who come on the show and do not necessarily represent those of The Critical Dialogue, its constituents, and partners, and its employees and clients.  The Critical Dialogue and its constituent partners are not responsible for any harm physical and/or psychological arising out of carrying out / following the views expressed and/or advice on this show.  This show is also not a substitute for any professional medical/non-medical advice.  Viewer discretion is advised.

S1E1: The Color of your SKIN doesn’t matter

Date: 25th September 2021
Host: Sree Kumar, Founder & CEO, The Critical Dialogue
Guest: Nageen Riffat (Nyn), Founder, Nyn’s Dreams

It was such an engaging session with our guest Nyn, on the TCDLive Weekend Lounge talk show.  The icing on the cake was so many turned up in support of the cause.

We’ve just scratched the surface

As the conversation moved along with Nyn’s story of her journey, her struggles, moments of vulnerability, withdrawal, emotional upheavals, to her transformation, and success; the show not just had its share of insightful moments, but had our attendees joining in with their own perspectives that were profound.
Women of color end up facing a wide range of micro-aggression

What was interesting yet painful to note was that despite so many years of discussing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion DEI, women of color face a significant amount of discrimination, bias, and harassment at the workplace.

  1. Being judged
  2. Questions on their ability
  3. Exclusion
  4. Suspecting their decision-making
  5. Questioning their commitment to the job, especially after motherhood
  6. Performance-related biases

Are some of the experiences that seem to take a heavy toll on women and are three times more for the women of color, who are victims of micro-aggressions.

Nyn shared with us briefly how she was able to overcome not just a wide range of micro-aggressive behavior at the workplace but go on to become resilient and successful.  In a world that was far away from her homeland, completely alien was something to really learn from.  She provided us with some ways in which that could be achieved.

  1. Believing in herself
  2. Continual improvement and upskilling
  3. Building a strong network of allies at the workplace
  4. Always looking to add value (focusing on what she can do to make a difference)
  5. Her willingness to seek help
  6. Developing high levels of self-awareness leading to,
  7. Enhanced self-worth and high-level of confidence

While the focus was on the challenges faced by women of color, this episode was all about the journey of an Asian Woman.

The next episode is to continue the dialogue on the challenges because of micro-aggressions faced by black women at the workplace. 

“It is harder for Black employees to advance organically from entry-level to managerial jobs; their attrition rates are higher, and many report a trust deficit and a lack of sponsorship and allyship.”

S1E2: Workplace harassment and bullying

Date: 2nd October 2021
Host: Sree Kumar, Founder & CEO, The Critical Dialogue
Co-host: Nageen Riffat, Founder Nyn’s Dreams
Special Guest: Oluwafemi aka (FEMI) Omotola, CEO, Owner, and Lead-HR Consultant, Shalom Shalom Consulting inc. ca.

It was such an engaging session with our guest Femi, on the TCDLive Weekend Lounge show.  The icing on the cake was like always so many turned up in support of the cause.

We continued from where we left last time..

This time the discussion on workplace harassment and bullying focused on black women of color and especially those who migrated to their host country with dreams in their eyes.

It was our special guest Femi who shared her journey in her own inimitable style that was not just engaging but came straight from the heart.  

“I had a spring in my walk when I migrated to Canada, with two master’s degrees, one in sociology and the other in industrial relations.  I didn’t think that I will encounter what I encountered when I got to the shores of my host country. The first thing that hits me was okay. My skin is black. I never thought about that before, when I was back home because everybody is the same, the same complexion basically.”

With her husband job-hunting and three children in tow, the start was not the ideal that I had expected.  She went on to share how she had to face up to harassment and bullying as she tried to settle in and take off on her journey.  Her story provided deep insights into her struggles, moments of vulnerability, withdrawal, emotional upheavals, to her transformation, and success; the show not just had its share of insightful moments, but had our attendees joining in with their own perspectives that were profound and a great learning experience.

Women of color end up facing a wide range of micro-aggression

What was interesting yet painful to note was that despite so many years of discussing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion DEI, women of color face a significant amount of discrimination, bias, and harassment at the workplace.

  1. Being judged
  2. Questions on their ability
  3. Exclusion
  4. Suspecting their decision-making
  5. Questioning their commitment to the job,
  6. Performance-related biases
  7. Receiving undue flak
  8. Not getting due credit for their success,

Some of the consistent themes we could hear while Femi went on to share her journey, that had their fair share of ups and downs.  From starting as a self-confident woman to losing it and regaining it as she navigated the emotional roller-coaster.  What she said was that not many are able to see what is going in inside the mind of a person who has to endure harassment and bullying on a daily basis.

She shared how the state of her mind and in her office was starting to take a heavy toll on her family, who had to take the brunt of it all.

When asked about how she was able to overcome the challenges and what is her advice to high-potential young black women who aspire to reach leadership levels in the organization, she had these few things to say.

Ways to stay on top of your game

  1. You must always invest in yourself, try and keep learning, developing your skill-sets and competencies so that you do not just match up but can be better than anyone in that role
  2. Find out what you are passionate about and invest some time taking it up, even if it is a side-hustle.  That can boost your confidence to new levels.
  3. Do not be afraid to speak up.  Bring difficult conversations to the table sooner than you do, so that you do not have to lose your sleep over it daily.
  4. Identify the early signs that you are becoming a victim of harassment and bullying, by listening to your body.  If you are not sleeping well, that could be one of the first signs.
  5. Build strong allyship.  Have someone who you trust and can share what you are going through.  It can act as a catalyst in overcoming the myriad problems you face.  That someone or people can act as your personal advisory board.
  6. Learn to make use of the employee assistance programs.  Do not be afraid of reprisal.
  7. Stop wearing masks and be your authentic self
  8. Whatever it is you love to do or take up – just start.  No matter how big or small the initiative is.  Start strong and stay the course.

Femi shared, how she not just started her entrepreneurial journey, setting up a consulting firm that would focus on creating an organizational culture that is truly inclusive, she also started a side-hustle by setting up a separate project, that of selling African fashion accessories and cultural artifacts.  That really gives her immense satisfaction and joy.

Insights from a few of our fellow attendees

Veronique

“I believe that you need to build allyship and be the strong person and voice of reason! As a leader in my organization, we have developed Employee Resource Groups where we build up and embed DEI”
“it’s time to have a courageous conversation..  I insert myself professionally no matter what”
“I’m blessed to be in a global organization where DEI is embedded in all our people, product, and services daily”
“It’s vital to find an organization whose values align with both your personal and professional values.”
Zarine
“instances of bullying are on the rise when cos are either performing badly or during crisis situations like covid? Its a means of trying to get people to leave”
“Most stem from the fact that the leadership is not committed to implementing safe workspace policies that already exist in organizations.  It must start at the top”
Angela Gala
“There are times, leadership resorts to means that are intentionally designed to force employees to leave”
“Most of the time the problem is at the top, and it will prevail as long as the leadership remains the same.”
“I quit my full-time job and started my own practice.  No more harassment and no more bullying”
Vikas Singh
Bullying and discrimination happen because:
1. Poor leadership – 
2. Poor team coordination and poor peer support.
3. Lobbying and voluntary ignorance from management (low to high, including HR, etc) and colleagues 

What can we do?

  1. We can grow stronger – awareness and preparation (somehow talking about it actively and passively)
  2. Focus on wellbeing 
  3. Maybe sometimes empathy for the bully (maybe he/she had a challenging background of being bullied self also). And try not to take things personally.

What are the positive outcomes:

  1. We can ask openly in the interview about the company’s discrimination policy and bullying policy. Ethical behavior etc.
  2. Talk to other employees working there and listen to their feedback. 
  1. Identifying bullies and confronting the situation with respect and acknowledgment. Sometimes the bulky do not know about his/her behavior. 
  2. Focus on self-wellbeing and self-preservation

Judith Carmody
“It’s imperative that we start to sensitize people early in their life and career.  Maybe it’s time we looked at teaching at schools and colleges and even parents about the negative effects of bullying and harassment.  Teach them how to deal with it effectively when they grow up and have to face it in the corporate world”

While the focus was on the challenges faced by women of color, this episode was all about the journey of an African woman of color.  Femi’s journey is an eye-opener and definitely a small step in furthering the cause of making our workspaces safe and free from harassment and bullying.

The next episode is to continue the dialogue on the challenges because of micro-aggressions faced by employees at the workplace.

S1E3: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

S1E3: Organizations Must Stop Shouting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Date: 9th October 2021

Host: Sree Kumar, Founder & CEO, The Critical Dialogue
Co-host: Nageen Riffat, Founder, Nyn’s Dreams
Special Guest: Torrey Davis, I/O Psychology, Organizational Strategist, Founder, Davis IOP Consulting


Disclaimer:the views, information, or opinions expressed during the TCDLive Weekend Lounge show / series are solely those of the individuals, authors, guest speakers who come on the show and do not necessarily represent those of The Critical Dialogue, its constituents and partners, and its employees and clients.The Critical Dialogue and its constituent partners are not responsible for any harm physical and/or psychological arising out of carrying out / following the views expressed and/or advise on this show.  This show is also not a substitute for any professional medical/non-medical advice.  Viewer discretion is advised.

It was such an engaging session with our guest, Torrey, on the TCDLive Weekend Lounge show.  The icing on the cake was so many turned up in support of the cause.

Behind the scenes

I was having a conversation with Torrey about the topic of workplace harassment and bullying and how people of color need to stop complaining and playing the victim all the time and start learning ways to “navigate” the rough and tumble of the corporate world; he had this to ask me….

“Sree, by navigating, are you suggesting that I need to become more white in order for me to survive?”

Why can’t I be comfortable in my skin – me being just me, and still be able to level up, succeed and reach top positions in organizations?

His questions got me thinking and our discussions veered towards the DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) policies in organizations that suffer from poor implementation.  He went on to say that the policies exist for a reason and are indicative of the fact that incidences of workplace harassment and bullying have occurred in the past that necessitated them in the first place.  

As it turns out, globally, these policy documents have become more of a medium of defending the corporations than those it was originally meant to protect. 

I find it insulting to those who are hired by companies that repeatedly shout diversity and inclusion, only to find it to be the exact opposite.  It is not just about color, race, gender, harassment, and bullying in its subtle form keeps occurring all the time, the so-called micro-aggression. 

Bullying and harassment happen at all levels and can be directed to your age, experience, skillset,  the way you speak, your attitude, and many such dimensions. 

Diversity, equity, and inclusivity in the workplace don’t mean you merely use it as a showcase – a splash here and a dash there.

Most organizations feel satisfied that they are meeting the bare minimum needs of diversity and inclusion numbers.  People at the receiving end of micro-aggressive behavior start to feel increasingly alienated and are constantly reminded that they are different and don’t belong.  

He said “As a man of color, I had to work harder, just to get equal respect all the while suppressing my personality to dispel the stereotype of a rebellious, non-conformist.

In #thecriticaldialogue #TCDLiveWeekendLounge show this weekend, we spoke to Torrey asking him to throw some light on his journey and how he not just saved his skin but saved his sanity to be successful in life?  

We asked him how to identify the signs of micro-aggression at work and ways to deal with it.

Let’s talk DE&I!

Torrey began his conversation by discussing, what he coined, “the roots” of his experience of DE&I. His journey began with his family and how he fit into his family’s nucleus because his parents and brothers respected each other’s differences. He discussed being exposed to his parents struggles within the workplace – his mother being bullied due to not engaging with cliques and workplace gossip. His father started out in the mailroom, even though he had personnel and  account experience due to spending 22-years in the Military. 

Torrey’s DE&I journey changed as he entered college and the working environment, where being a man of color brought about new unwanted experiences. Ultimately, the attendees gravitated to how Torrey defined DE&I: Diversity – “Other than me or different than me”. Equity – “Fairness, but fairness must be agreed upon by the parties involved.” Inclusion – “to actually be inclusive…thought process and perspectives, culture, communication, family status, working styles…must be considered.”

What is interesting about Torrey’s discussion is how it complemented Nageen Riffat’s (Nyn) conversation during Episode 1 of this season. 

However, Torrey’s focus was on organizations and how DE&I relate to men of color, and DE&I in the organization in general. Focal points of Torrey’s discussion were: 

  1. DEI – What’s wrong and why is it not having the necessary impact?
  2. Microaggressions
  3. DEI – implementation, what can organizational leadership do?
  4. Do you think having a DEI policy has become more a tool to defend the organization than those it is intended to protect?
  5. Employee assistance programs – are they truly helping promote DEI?
  6. Is a mandated independent external audit of DEI of organizations needed?

Are some of the experiences that seem to take a heavy toll on women and are three times more for the women of color, who are victims of microaggressions.

Torrey shared several different perspectives about DE&I in the organization that can assist leaders, managers, and employees with discussing the necessary elements needed within their companies to promote and exhibit diversity, equity, and inclusion:

  1. Not defining DE&I in a manner that is relatable to the masses.
  2. Speaking from my I/O Psychology and consulting lens, not defining good measures for DE&I is problematic.
  3. DE&I is more than what’s listed under Affirmative action. 
  4. Microaggression in the workplace
  5. Implicit bias.
  6. The four dimensions of DE&I – organizational, external, internal, personal.
  7. Employee assistance programs and mistrust.

While the focus was on the challenges faced by men of color in relation to DE&I, this episode focused on many organization concerns and DE&I. 

S1E4: Recovery and Resilience in the aftermath of domestic violence

Date: 16th October 2021

Host: Sree Kumar, Founder & CEO, The Critical Dialogue

Guest: Nageen Riffat, Founder, Nyn’s Dreams

Disclaimer: the views, information, or opinions expressed during the TCDLive Weekend Lounge show / series are solely those of the individuals, authors, guest speakers who come on the show and do not necessarily represent those of The Critical Dialogue, its constituents and partners, and its employees and clients.  The Critical Dialogue and its constituent partners are not responsible for any harm physical and/or psychological arising out of carrying out / following the views expressed and/or advice on this show.  This show is also not a substitute for any professional medical/non-medical advice.  Viewer discretion is advised.

It was such an engaging and deeply moving and emotional session with our guest, Nageen, on the TCDLive Weekend Lounge show.  We were blessed to have so many turned up and also registered their support of the cause.

Behind the scenes

I was talking to Nageen Riffat, Founder, Nyn’s Dreams and Award-Winning Speaker on Women’s Empowerment and Author of the best seller #HerRhythm – You are more than your survival story”

Her story literally shook me to the core, and I couldn’t get myself to even imagine the trauma this powerful lady had to endure, two young boys in tow, with no guarantee of what was in store.  I said to her “How could GOD be so unkind to such a wonderful woman? – Why was he a mute spectator, watching his creation being battered and bruised and left to fend for herself all alone?

“Sree, GOD helps those who help themselves, was her spontaneous response”.

“I tell you it was the worst experience in my life, a bad dream but it was also the best experience in my life . . . It made me a stronger person, and I feel like what I have gone through,  I can pass along to others, and I feel like I have this intuition when I’m around  people that are in those situations, and I try to make it evident but not obvious, that  I’m there for them if they need anything.”

Globally there are so many women who have been silently suffering or have been victims of domestic violence.  And a limited few who have not just recovered from the aftermath of domestic violence but who went on to rebuild and rebirth their lives.

When it comes to DV the victims/survivors inevitably experience trials and tribulations of recovery.  They are forced to contend with so much stress in the aftermath of domestic violence that may include recurring symptoms of trauma (like depression, anxiety) but also of the perpetrators who make persistent attempts to control them.  Controlling by stalking, breaking into their homes, harassing and threatening their employers, friends and family.

This has a deep impact on their ability to make decisions, concentrate and remain focused, and process their emotions. 

But there are also women who not just survived but gone on to define their own path, find meaning and purpose in their life and have now become a beacon of hope to several thousand worldwide.

While not much data exists in terms of how they were able to win back their life, leaving an abusive relationship and working toward recovery, those who have shared their journey are really making a difference.

Their stories are filled with how their road to recovery took a tremendous amount of personal strength, self-awareness, resilience, emotional intelligence and self-control.  The common theme is that they stopped playing victim and waiting for someone to come save them and started taking charge of their life.

In The Critical Dialogue #TCDLiveWeekendLounge show this weekend, we spoke to Nageen Riffat on the topic “Recovery and Resilience in the aftermath of domestic violence”

We asked her to share her story of not just how she rid herself of the traumatic relationship but also about her road to recovery through resilience.

God helps those who help themselves

Nageen began the show by sharing her story from early days of her childhood, about what shaped her dreams, the influence of her dad and how growing up as his adorable princess she dreamt of living a life truly made of those dreams.  

She said, little did I realize that those very dreams were going to be shattered post her marriage.

Her deeply moving tale of woes, inner-conflicts, domestic abuse of both the physical and the emotional kind and her slow and painful road to recovery, resilience and transformation is what made the show invaluable.  There were lessons to be learnt at every stage, at times as a host I felt that I just let her be and continue, but honestly there is so much to her story than mere survival, as she wrote in her book #herRhythm – you are more than your survival story.

I tried to keep the focus around topics that I thought would really be beneficial for fellow women around the world.  Those included:

  1. How living in denial doesn’t help your cause?
  2. Reclaiming yourself – need to invest in self-care
  3. The power of belief
  4. Repurpose your life – start dreaming again
  5. Decisions and choices that EMPOWER
  6. Forgiveness – how that helps in recovery
  7. Stand up for your rights
  8. Re-birthing – find renewed purpose, meaning, and energy to succeed

Honestly, as much as I thought it would remain focused on these topics, we veered towards some more basic and pertinent ones that deserved attention.  As is always the case with the TCDLiveWeekend Lounge experience, we always remain open to bring to table that which matters even if it demands of us at times moving away from pre-fixed agenda.

The idea of “Dialogue” is just that after all, isn’t it.

We started talking about how;

  1. Cases of domestic violence go unreported – Nageen shared that over 90% of the domestic violence cases go unreported, not just because at times victim/survivors themselves are unaware that they have been subjected to abuse but also because of the cultural stigma that is attached to it.
  1. What stops victims/survivors from reporting cases of domestic violence – She said that many do not report because they don’t want their family name to be dragged to courts or litigations.  They do not want their own kith and kin, friends and colleagues to end up facing the wrath of the abusers.  This is particularly the case when the perpetrator is a person of high influence, both in terms of money, muscle and connections.  The problem she said was at times the victim/survivors family themselves are to blame as they don’t want to get involved and invest their energies in pushing the victim back into the fire.  Instead of trying to stand up and fight for their kin, they at times can be perceived to be more siding with the perpetrators and their families.  That is the sad part, she said.  This really has a deep psychological impact on the victim as they become highly untrusting of others and withdraw into a cocoon to suffer in silence. As Nageen said, it starts to impact so much that it goes on to impair the thinking and decision making faculties of the victim/survivor.
  1. It’s not just physical, the psychological abuse goes unnoticed – Nageen spoke about how it was not just about the physical abuse victims/survivors are subjected to but the intense  emotional/psychological abuse they are subjected to that often goes unnoticed.  She said while the scars from physical abuse are visible and are a grim reminder of what she had gone through each time she goes in front of the mirror, it is the emotional trauma that is hard to overcome.  Especially when you have no one to talk to and are alone, it comes to bite you again and again, not allowing you to forget your past.  She said, physical scars may heal over time but the emotional ones take a long long time.  You can never completely heal from them though you can work towards reducing the negative effects of those on your psyche and on your life ahead.
  1. Why are married women with children less likely to report against the perpetrators of violence? – When you have innocent lives who are dependent on you and expect you to be the protective blanket around them, you cannot afford at times to be seen as vulnerable.  Your instincts naturally are to bear with the abuse, lest it start touching your children’s life.  The perpetrators of domestic violence can emotionally manipulate children, physically threaten them to get their custody.  For them, not being able to get custody of their kids is the first and a great sign of their failure, which they would not like a bit.  They would go to any extent to ensure that the victim/survivor is physically and emotionally isolated.  They can threaten, use coercive force, and even be prepared to kill, just so that they win.  The fear they instill in the victim is just enough for them to remain silent.  

    The other interesting point she raised was that when you have kids and you want them to grow up in a good family environment, you keep trying your best to make up with the perpetrator with the hope that this is just a passing phase and one day things will turn out to be good.  What she said was profound and very important – you cannot afford to live in denial.  You have to accept that you have failed in your efforts to make this work.  It’s time to move on.  When you are faced with the choice of either ‘giving up’ or ‘standing up’, she said make the choice of standing up to fight another day.  That is what made her to be what she is today – A true woman of substance.
  1. If the abusers would have grown up in a family which condoned such acts – to this question, she was not wanting to sound like she is empathetic to the perpetrator.  She said, it is sad that it does happen most of the time that women in the family of the abuser, do not even realize that another woman like them is getting violated.  They either are mute spectators or contribute to the problem.  She said, such women fail to even realize that they are mothers, sisters, daughters themselves.  It is so damn difficult to fathom that they could become party to domestic violence.  She went on to say that unless women in the violator’s family, his kith or kin don’t take a stance, this kind of violation is not going away any time soon.
  1. The effects and impact of covid-19 pandemic in an increase of domestic violence – Nageen spoke about women and especially working women, who have been victims of subtle forms of abuse, the psychological kind, which has been on the rise post pandemic and work-from-home scenario.  The only time a victim/survivor used to get to be with themselves was either in the shower or during their commute to and fro office.  With work-from-home, that luxury has also been taken away.  There is very little time for self-care which these women get with expectations of them being super-woman who could work almost 18-20 hrs. A day, supporting family, children, parents, work and much much more.  The exhausted mind has no time to think of rejuvenating for self-care.  She said, she had to wear a mask throughout the day, at office – to show up as a confident and decisive person, with children – as a strong and powerful lady, with husband – as a caring and affectionate partner, with in-law – as a devoted daughter in law, with parents as a loving caring child, with friends as a – bubbly enthusiastic person, Phew!  You never really are you!
  1. The need to sensitize and build awareness. Nageen spoke at length about how women must invest in their self-care and build their self-worth.  They must work hard to develop competencies that could help them not just take up jobs but also become self-reliant in the face of adversity.  She said, the very fact that she was well educated and had a successful career helped her to escape from the clutches of an abusive relationship and gave her the confidence to make a life of her own in an alien land.  Today, she goes about conducting sensitization programs, workshops and skill builders and works with NGOs and community centers to empower women to stand up and be noticed.  She kept repeating throughout the show that self-care was the key.
  2. How organizations the world over can support She talked about how organizations can support the victim/survivor of domestic violence by not just being sensitive to their needs but also to provide them with the time, space and necessary resources to not just recover but get a life of their own making. She highlighted that while she was fortunate to have colleagues and an organization that supported her through that face of trials and tribulations, often she comes across women who have been let down by the very company or colleagues with whom she would have spent years working.  Organizations must come forward to employ and promote more women in the workplace.  Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the true sense.

The show definitely highlighted, and did not miss the fact that there is a great need for women to come out in support of women, if we want to see any significant change – whether in families or in the workplace.

The key takeaways

Support, Educate, Empower, Develop (SEED) as I would like to call it, is important in helping women fight against abuse and violence.  This needs to be backed by creating a fertile ground that has Social and Institutional support, Community support, and more importantly a cultural revolution of sorts.  One small step at a time.


TCDLive Weekend Lounge show is committed to bringing to dialogue all such topics that deserve our attention.  

May the world become truly inclusive!

TCDLive Weekend Lounge Talk Show
is committed to bringing to dialogue all such topics
that deserve attention.  

May the world become truly inclusive!

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