Studies show a diverse team can lead to greater productivity and higher profits, which is why the idea has evolved from political correctness to competitive advantage.
But being the minority often comes with higher standards and unfair expectations. Though more people are starting to welcome diversity at work, minorities still struggle with opening up to their coworkers, particularly when it comes to asking for help.
Which definitely isn’t their fault—decades of harsh treatment against minorities in the workplace has left a lasting impression, and it’s an almost impossible one to shake. From getting job training to resolving conflicts with unfriendly employees, many minorities are still afraid to speak up when they feel like they’re not succeeding—and that’s a problem for both the employee and the company at large.
How, then, can underrepresented sales professionals take control of their career in a way that’s healthy, productive, and achieves an optimal outcome?
We all have to pick our battles, but this can be easier said than done for minorities. Let’s look at a few best practices that can assist diverse employees in getting the help they need to succeed.
WHEN SHOULD YOU ASK FOR HELP?
Too often, when women and people of color are facing an issue they need assistance with, they feel they have no other choice than to suffer in silence, rather than asking for help. But consider this: how is sitting at a roadblock allowing you to move forward and prosper?
Here are a handful of critical times when you should bite the bullet and ask for help:
- When you’re struggling to consistently hit quota
- When you feel confused by your company’s product
- When you need more training to hit your numbers
- When you’re struggling to connect with buyers
- When a problem with a coworker persists, and you’ve done everything you can to solve it
In most sales organizations, your pay is a direct reflection of your ability to do a job well. As a rule, it takes roughly six to nine months for a sales rep to be successfully onboarded and become productive. That means six to nine months of pay the company is investing in you before they can even think about getting a return. There’s no way they want to set you up for failure—doing so would also cause them to fail.
Sales team diversity can only thrive if everyone is living up to their potential. If you sit back and allow fear to consume you, you’re doing yourself and your company a disservice.
SHOULD MINORITIES GO STRAIGHT TO HR?
HR is often seen as the guidance counselor of the workplace. HR leaders are skilled in conflict resolution. Whatever your grievances, HR has probably dealt with similar situations in the past and may be able to offer a reasonable solution.
However, HR might not always be the best first line of defense. For starters, HR’s role is to first and foremost serve the greater good of the company, not the individual employee. They are not career coaches or guidance counselors, but rather a department that’s designed to strengthen the company and keep workers happy and productive. This means they may resort to the path of least resistance when working out a resolution, and that might not play to your favor, regardless of whether you’re in the right.
In addition, today’s workplaces want their employees to be problem solvers, not trouble makers. They like to see impetus and initiative in working out bad situations, especially because organizations may see some complaints as productivity killers.
That’s not to say you should never seek the help of HR. But in most cases, your immediate supervisor will serve as the best line of communication if you have trouble that you can’t work out on your own.
SEEKING HELP WITHOUT FEAR
The single best practice in asking for help as a minority sales rep is to step out of your comfort zone before the problem gets worse. Good business leadership knows that it takes courage to admit you’re not perfect and that maintaining a growth mindset is key to success. If you’ve proven your qualifications in the past, act as a team player, and continue to show your enthusiasm for the workplace—then asking for help will only improve your image, regardless of minority status.
And those who disagree have a lot of growing to do. Because asking for help is not a weakness, but rather a sign of strength!