You are not “Fine”.

“How are you?”

Sound familiar.

Does your leader ask you this? Is your response automatically “fine, and you?”.

What you should be thinking is, “Am I really fine, before I answer this question”. One thing that holds millennial professionals behind, yes that includes Mr. I was born in 1981, is that we take on too much at work hoping that leadership and others can see that we can handle it all. Wrong.

This is even more visible with men and women of color. We believe we have to work twice as hard. There is some truth to that, but what we end up doing is making things harder on ourselves. 

The number of men and women of color decline as you move up the corporate ladder. According the 2018 Women in the Workplace study by McKinsey&Company, 9% of the C-Suite consist of men of color and only 4% are women of color.  Look at mid-level management, 16% are men and 12% are women of color. 

Representation is lacking. Taking on more is not going to help you excel. Taking on less and dominating those tasks is what will get you there. Less is more.

So when you are asked “How are you?”, it should be answered truthfully.

If your “I’m fine” means you feel great, then express that instead. Tell them about a great conversation you had that week or that you found a new restaurant and you brought leftovers for lunch. Add more detail. 

I say this because people of color do not open up and share a lot personal information. We stay surface level and hope that it gets us somewhere. It won’t.

Even something like sharing small wins, up front parking or making all the green lights, gives more. You are now humanizing your interactions.

Sure, you will talk about large wins and any-size failure. But don’t forget about the simple joys that turn your day from good to great.

For most of us, the “fine” is cover up language we use for when we feel overworked, exhausted and burned out. Instead of saying “fine”, be honest. 

Now before you start to let all of your emotions out, breathe and think first. There is a thing called being too open and expressive. We all have a colleague like that right? Yes you do…or is it you? 

If you are having a challenging day, month or quarter, say that. If you feel overwhelmed, mention that. People forget that admitting when you have too much takes courage and vulnerability. 

We always ask for more, instead of asking for help. 

There isn’t one leadership position that doesn’t require you to lead, delegate or ask for help from others. Why are you not starting now?

No, you are not going to see a change overnight just by elaborating on “I’m Fine”. But you will experience deeper connections and relationships with decision makers when you are open and vulnerable. Opportunities come from great connections. Not just numbers and performance.  

Ego’s live at work. Trying to prove your value by overloading yourself or putting in more hours is not going to help you. You are slowing down your process. If you are not “fine” tell someone.

A good leader is going to appreciate your defenselessness. Not penalize you. If they do, then you have a bigger problem on your hands.