Rachel Dolezal and Credibility in the Workplace

Photo from people.com

Photo from people.com

Rachel Dolezal, former head of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, flooded news headlines earlier this June when it was revealed that Dolezal was biologically Caucasian and not black as she claimed for years.

Dolezal’s family released a statement saying that Dolezal is not black, and has been “misrepresenting her race” for years on legal documents and to the people in her life. This eventually forced her resignation as the head of the NAACP chapter.

While some are accusing her of blackface, and others are agreeing that she is “transracial” because she still firmly states that she identifies as black, the bottom line is that she has marred her credibility.

Besides lying about her race, Dolezal has also given mixed messages about her past in general. She has told news organizations that she had been born in a teepee, that her parents abused her as a child, and that for a period of time they lived in South Africa.

She also claimed that one of her adopted brothers who currently lives with her and her son (who is biracial) was another son of hers. Dolezal also stated that an African American man was her father, though her biological parents have offered to prove otherwise. Her family has disputed rumors about the abuse, also stating that Dolezal herself never lived in a teepee or went to South Africa with her family.

As the lies pile up, and Dolezal flips her stories on various news organizations, it only makes sense that there was pressure to resign from her NAACP position, even though the organization originally supported her when the story broke.

In this instance, where does your credibility and identity fall in the workplace? Did Dolezal resign because she lied about her race, or because her credibility has been totally undermined?

Dolezal’s claims that she is allowed to identify as black, comparing herself to Caitlyn Jenner, is not what immediately astounded me or worried me. While I personally find it bizarre, I have no control over how people identify with themselves. In the work place, I do not think that any place should be able to tell you who you are.

However, the lying about her past and misrepresenting her race completely ruined her image in the public’s eye. And that I can understand. How can we respect someone who has deceived us? As intelligent human beings, once we are deceived, especially at such a large scale, we will forever be skeptical.

Another well-known figure that this has happened to recently was Brian Williams. After a few stories were proven false, Brian Williams was eventually demoted from his position as Nightly News anchor. This is also understandable. Journalism is supposed to uncover the truth, not make its own version of the truth.

So what have we learned? That honesty is the foundation for your credibility in the workplace. Honesty displays morals. Honesty displays hard work. And it will earn you respect.

Once Rachel Dolezal and Brian Williams were painted as liars, who would want them holding the positions they had? What else could they be lying about? Even if it was harmless lying (in their eyes), it was the moral judgment behind their easy acceptance of lies that undermined their credibility.

In the workplace, there are definitely some foundations to maintaining your credibility, such as possessing integrity, displaying competence, and sound judgment. Even if the lies seem to be personal, like Dolezal’s, once your credibility is undermined, this could unravel all of the hard work you have done your field.

As Zig Zagler once said, “The foundation stones for success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: AMY VAUGHN9d54e19e059511e2a62d1231380fd04a_7

I am a recent Montclair State University graduate with a BA in English. My first love is writing, specifically nonfiction and short stories. International human rights and women’s rights are also strong passions of mine. I hope to someday be able to call myself an editor, human rights advocate, and jewelry designer. I can’t live without Mad Men (er, Netflix), soy chai lattes, or my adorable Wheaten terrier, Pippin.

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