The Only Black Guy in the Office

The No-Days-Off Mentality Is Killing Me

Even God rested on the seventh day. But he didn’t have to deal with the complexities of an Out of Office message

The Only Black Guy In the Office
LEVEL
Published in
4 min readMar 6, 2020

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Illustration of an African American man looking up worried, as wor kreminders like emails, texts, and messages surround him.
Illustration: Richard A. Chance

Update 6/7/22: Level has a new home. You can read this article and other new articles by visiting LEVELMAN.com.

Hi, my name is [redacted], and I’m a recovering workaholic.

As a Black person, I’ve always felt the need to be hustling nonstop. It’s as if Diddy is chanting in my head on an infinite loop: I thought I told you that we won’t stop, eh-eh, eh-eh. I was raised to believe I’d have to work twice as hard to earn half the accolades — and that’s generous — that my White counterparts receive. Which, aside from being spot-fucking-on, is also a subconscious means of countering the weird stereotypes that some people associate with Black people in the workplace — that we’re lazy or slackers.

For that reason, I used to feel the need to work, work, work — even outside of business hours. It’s a disposition that the internet, smartphones, and glorious Slack have made all the more practical. On my last job, I’d reluctantly take advantage of the unlimited PTO and only call out sick if I were coughing up a whole lung. It speaks to a lot of those well-intentioned but ultimately harmful narratives that we put on ourselves: Gotta keep grinding. I’ll sleep when I die. Et cetera, et cetera.

As a Black person, there’s always this creeping feeling that the rug can be pulled out from under you at any moment.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s not that vacation wasn’t encouraged. My time-off requests were honored when I actually did submit them (albeit with a series of annoying “Can you remind us when you’ll be out, again?” follow-ups, ugh). And while I think some people would equate my time off to being unproductive, it’s probably more of a self-imposed struggle — but still a struggle nonetheless.

A few years back, when I got word that my expiring employment contract would not be renewed, I freaked the hell out. It wasn’t like I hadn’t prepared for that probable turn of events — I save money…

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The Only Black Guy In the Office
LEVEL
Writer for

Do you know him? Is it you? The trials and tribulations of a Black man navigating corporate life.