There’s often a feeling anticipation that comes when a Black woman learns she’ll be working under another Black woman. It’s a moment of excitement, a hope for solidarity, and the expectation of understanding. But for many, the reality doesn’t match the dream. A recent tweet sparked a conversation about the challenges faced by Black women working under Black female leadership.

This sentiment isn’t isolated. It reflects a deeper issue within professional spaces.

The workplace dynamics for Black women under Black female leadership can be complex. It often contrasts sharply with the anticipated support and mentorship. This leads to some Black women finding themselves disillusioned by the reality of working under those who they hoped would uplift them.

Expectation vs. Reality When Working Under Black Women

The excitement of finding a Black woman in a position of authority quickly fades for some when faced with the harsh reality of their leadership style. Instead of nurturing mentorship and guidance, some encounter a workplace environment reminiscent of a high school sorority rather than a professional setting.

As one Twitter user put it, “Yess I always clashed with black female managers. They don’t know if they wanna be ya manager or ya mama. Girl bye.”

Among Black women employees, there’s a common experience of blurred boundaries and conflicting roles.

So why does this disconnect exist? There are multifaceted reasons, each shedding light on the complexities of navigating corporate spaces as Black women.

First, the pressure to conform to traditional leadership norms can lead some Black women in authority to adopt behaviors that mimic those of their white male counterparts. Instead of warmth and empathy, their demeanor becomes cold and distant, reflecting a misguided attempt to fit into a mold shaped by affinity bias.

Imposter syndrome exacerbates this issue, prompting some Black women to guard their positions fiercely. This leads them to view their peers as threats rather than allies. Having this mindset can manifest in behaviors that undermine the growth and success of other Black women, perpetuating a cycle of oppression within corporate structures.

The quest for acceptance and validation from non-minority colleagues can drive a wedge between Black women in leadership and their peers. This sense of alienation can foster a mentality of “us versus them,” further isolating those who should be working together to dismantle systemic barriers.

A Tale of Two Experiences

Despite these challenges, it’s essential to acknowledge that not all experiences working under Black women are negative. For many, these leaders serve as beacons of support and encouragement in an often hostile corporate landscape.

“I have a black supervisor and she’s the most amazing lady I’ve ever met,” shared one Twitter user. “She buys the entire team lunch twice a week, gives us off time whenever we need. Even when we mess up, she takes the blame for us but curses us out in private.”

So, what should you do if you find yourself in a toxic work environment under the leadership of another Black woman? It’s a challenging situation, but one that requires careful consideration and self-preservation.

In a conversation about her own work experiences, Carolina Wanga, CEO of Essence Communications, once advised to change your surroundings and never sacrifice your integrity.

“If you cannot be who you are where you are, you change where you are, not who you are,” she said.

The experience of working under Black women is as varied and nuanced as the individuals themselves. It can be a transformative experience, offering mentorship, support, and empowerment. However, it can also present challenges, including blurred boundaries, microaggressions, and internalized biases.

Your well-being and professional growth are extremely important. If a toxic work environment threatens those, it may be time to reassess your circumstances.