update from the reader who wanted to help young coworkers learn professionalism

Remember the letter from the reader who wanted to help his coworkers, who were new to working in a professional setting, and who came from disadvantaged communities without many professional role models? He was especially concerned because their manager was violating all sorts of boundaries with them — from going to nightclubs with them (despite a 30-year age difference) to taking them shopping for clothes and alcohol.

(This was the post that sparked the later discussion about how your parents’ level of professional achievement influenced you.)

Here’s his update:

I wanted to update you on the situation with my non-profit and the new-to-the-workplace Neighborhood Liaisons that were being poorly managed. Things with the obnoxious manager and the NLs were getting a little bit worse, but because of a serious bout of community violence and some pretty scary death threats, we had to pull the whole team out of there (that included relocation of the NLs and their families; it was an incredibly stressful time, but thankfully none of our team members or their families were hurt, and now they’re in a safer location). Once they were safe, our admin wasn’t sure what to do, and I suggested we create an internal internship-style program so they could test out different pieces of the business and see if there was a fit in a new department. Folks loved the idea, and one of the former NLs is working with me now, and while we still struggle with certain workplace norms and office culture, she’s crazy intelligent — she speaks four languages fluently, for crying out loud — and it seems like there’s a lot of potential for a brighter future for these guys. It’s really exciting!

I also wanted to say thank you to you and your readers for the thoughtful follow-up conversation about disadvantaged communities and the workplace. The folks in the NL program came from families where not one family member had ever had a job, as in EVER. In my current “intern”‘s family, no one had ever held a job for three generations back. It’s amazing how much these young adults have had to learn, and it’s amazing how much knowledge we take for granted when we come from families with professional backgrounds. I am a firm believer in social justice — it’s our nonprofit’s mission — and this is an issue at the heart of it, and it involves lots of factors — money, race, education, opportunity, privilege, culture … all kinds of fascinating stuff. I think it’s an issue that we should continue to raise and talk about. Thanks so much for doing so!

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