228: Managing Toxic Work Environments in Higher Education with Briana Muñoz Flores

228: Managing Toxic Work Environments in Higher Education with Briana Muñoz Flores


In today’s episode, Briana Muñoz Flores shares her insights on managing toxic work environments.

Briana is a 4th generation Latina born and raised in Central California. She has a bachelor’s in Ethnomusicology and Afro-American Studies from UCLA and a Masters in Higher Education from USC. She’s worked in family businesses since she was young and spent most of her professional career working in universities. When not helping graduate students succeed, she likes to listen to audiobooks while walking her rescue dog, Niles, singing along to musicals and binge-watching K-dramas.

On the show, Briana identifies common signs of a toxic work environment, which include not trusting your intuition/gut feeling that something is wrong, things feeling unethical, and being used as a scapegoat. She also addresses the added challenges for Latinas and people of color in predominantly white work environments. And she dives into sharing strategies for managing toxic environments, including setting boundaries, having a support network, and creating an exit strategy.  Listen to this episode if you can relate or want to do your part to not create or replicate toxic work environments.

You can connect with Briana on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/brianamf/) and via email at brianamay26@gmail.com.

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228: Managing Toxic Work Environments in Higher Education with Briana Muñoz-Flores


Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: [00:00:00] Welcome back everyone to another episode of the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. This is your host, Doctora Yvette. And today we're going to be talking about managing toxic work environments in higher education specifically. Oof, this is... This is a topic that I think is much needed and that unfortunately probably a lot of us can relate to.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And today I have a special guest. Her name is Briana Munoz-Flores, she's a fourth generation Latina born and raised in San Central California. She has a bachelor's in ethnomusicology and Afro-American Studies from UCLA and a Master's in Higher Education from USC. She has worked in family businesses since she was young and spent most of her professional career working in universities.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: When not helping grad students succeed, she likes to listen to audio books while walking her rescue dog, Niles, singing along to musicals and binge [00:01:00] watching K dramas. I love that. Welcome to the podcast,

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Briana. Thank you so much.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yay. I'm so happy that you get to come on the show. I'm so happy that we get to have this conversation.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I've known you for a few years now. And for folks who don't know about you about your work, can you let us, let us know a little bit more about you and perhaps anything about your background and backstory that you would like to

Briana Muñoz-Flores: share? Yeah, sure. Thank you. Yeah, so like you said, fourth generation Latina born in the U.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: S. So my family has been here for a while. I grew up in the Central Valley, so I come from a long line of farm workers, also business owners. And I have been working since I was six, because, you know, Six?! Six. Yeah, for family businesses, you know so my family owns like a, a video rental store when I was younger, so I would help out like on the computer.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: I actually learned customer [00:02:00] service very, very young. And so I've just been working since I was six. But so growing up in the Central Valley and then also partly in Santa Barbara, my dad is a first generation college graduate. And he actually went to school with four kids and a wife. So I grew up on college campuses as well.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: And so a lot of my focus on higher education and getting students through the pipeline is from his experience, from my experience, seeing him cross the stage as a young child, and then coming back to Central California and seeing the stark differences from him. Living in Santa Barbara to living in central California.

aNd so then went off to college. I've. Also saying since I was really young so decided to go and do something I love. I really ended up working in higher education and working through that and then just kind of fell into graduate student services and really helping that underserved population of graduate students and helping them work through the different stages of their career.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So that's. Kind of in a nutshell, [00:03:00] but throughout I've definitely had my share of different types of working environments, different types of supervisors. And I think a lot of the way I feel in workspaces or the way I see workspaces is different because coming from a business background, coming from a family business background, how I was raised.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: And so I'm able to see. Management differently than perhaps other people that doesn't mean I didn't fall into different traps when it came to toxic work environments. That doesn't mean it was easier for me. Doesn't mean it was easier for me to leave. It just means that I definitely see it differently.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So definitely excited to talk about this topic, especially from our particular cultures as Latinas and then how to navigate, how to get out of a bad situation. Essentially. Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I, you mentioned What is it? Toxic work traps or how did you say it? What

Briana Muñoz-Flores: did I say? I don't know.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Well, I just the thing that stuck out in my mind was the word trap.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And I was wondering, you know, you said you've worked [00:04:00] in a wide range of environments, including business early on. What would you say that are some common signs, telltale signs or perhaps traps related to being in a toxic work environment? How do you even know? Sometimes it's pretty apparent, but other times it's not.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So can you tell us a little bit about what you've noticed your

Briana Muñoz-Flores: observations? Yeah, and I think The biggest trap I fell into was not trusting my intuition. beCause I feel like, and I'm going to get a, I feel like everyone has some type of intuition. Everyone has feelings about what happens. Women are more in tune with our body.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: And I would say women of color tend to be a little more in tuned with vibes, intuition, what's going on. So for me, I've always had, like, listened to my gut, but I think in toxic, in toxic environments, but also toxic work environments, it's almost that you don't believe yourself. You don't [00:05:00] truly believe.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: No, it can't be that bad. Like, oh, she's not that bad. Or they're not that bad. And so I think it's the biggest trap is not trusting your intuition. Not trusting that little voice in your gut or in your head saying like, ah, that was a little, little sus. Because I think that's the underlying, for me at least, that was the underlying thread in different toxic work environments.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Which is, I didn't, I knew, you know at a certain point, but you don't want to believe it. Because of so many other reasons, and we can get into all those other reasons later. But I think another sign is also just when you're in it, I think in a lot of these environments, when you're in it, it doesn't feel bad.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: But once you're outside, looking back in, then it's like, Oh, why was I there for that long? So sometimes it's in a moment, someone will say something, and it'll just go over your head. But then a couple like 30 minutes later, you'll go back to it and be like, wait, Is that what they said? Because that's, that's like not [00:06:00] okay.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Or is that what happened? Also when things just feel unethical when especially in higher education. Areas, everyone is overworked and so often you get things thrown on your plate that aren't really your job. But I think also the trap in higher education is you want to help. So I just want to do everything I can to help.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So then you take on so much, but then that also makes you the fall person for if something doesn't work out.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: What do you mean by that? That makes you the small person?

Briana Muñoz-Flores: What do you, what do you mean when you say that? So for example, in one of my toxic work environments I wasn't trained on certain systems because like trainings had to happen at a certain time.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So I didn't have access to certain systems, but my boss was like, Oh, just use my login. and use those systems. So now, right. I just saw your face. So now, exactly, exactly now. So it's technically under her name, but then she'll [00:07:00] have an out saying, well, like I didn't do it. Like she did. And these are like pay systems.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: These are payroll systems that I hadn't had a training in yet. And all I was going by was whatever was in the office, whatever someone had. So you're a scapegoat, essentially, if at least that was my experience that I ended up being the scapegoat when something didn't happen when I wasn't trained. I was never trained on that system.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Eventually I was trained and got my own login, but the first three months of my job didn't have training on payroll. Something so large, you know, something so important. Especially for students, especially for, you know, different communities. And yeah, so I just think now looking back, I would have pushed back.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: I would have, I would tell, would have told anyone else to push back a little bit. Yeah. It was hard. It was my first job out of grad school and wanted to believe that I was helping or that they needed help. [00:08:00] So that's what I mean by being the fall person or being the scapegoat is that often when you're in a toxic work environment, you're sometimes the the it's the old adage of the last one in first one out.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So you're the last one to get hired. And then if anything comes up, you tend to be. The first one, you know, fired or the first one go on the chopping block or something.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yeah. You know it's interesting because my first impression of talking about toxic work environments was that we would talk about things related to race, class, gender, the isms the micro or macro aggressions, but you're giving examples that are applicable to anyone.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: If, you know, it might be that you just, something is off and you sense it. It might be that from an I recall, I recall when I was in a toxic work environment going to therapy and my therapist telling me how bad it was and me minimizing it. So that's what it reminds me of the outsider looking in. And then the last one of, of being the [00:09:00] scapegoat.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: That's, you know, that's true. But can we talk about also the, the specific ways that Latinas in higher ed are impacted by toxic work environments? So you know, more specific challenges related to being, in your case, a Latina in higher ed and how that can complicate or compound issues that are already there.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I know It can be tricky to talk about examples, but you know, if you can speak more broadly about how you have handled or would handle these types of situations should they come up again in the

Briana Muñoz-Flores: future. Yeah, so I think as a Latina. There are two different instances that I think about so actually my first toxic work environment, my boss was another Latina.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: And so, but we're different generations. She has the immigrant narrative. I don't. And then, so it was almost like, because we were Latina, that was off the board and it became strictly about [00:10:00] whatever she felt about me, but then she would bring up she would utilize her immigrant narrative as a card against me whenever something would come up, or she would utilize it, she would weaponize it.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: And then I've also had instances with other women in the community where they weren't helpful in helping me move up, because there are not a lot of Latinas in There are a lot of Latinas in higher ed in advising positions, in entry level positions, or right above entry level. There aren't a lot of Latinas as you go up in the levels.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: And so there was one at my, at that I wanted to work with as a graduate student, but she just was not helpful. She didn't want, she wasn't she wasn't open to helping out. And when I did have meetings, she was just very just very curt, very rude, not wanting to help, just like completely criticizing all the time.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: And so a little bit was like, I was expecting, you know, someone else in my community to be helpful, to want to help me. And so I'm not sure if that was her way of helping, but it was, it didn't feel helpful [00:11:00] at all. So I think one thing that happens with Latinas is not everyone that you share communities or identities with is going to be an ally to you.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Right. And that is something that you can never know until you're in those spaces until you're around them, and so I think that's something I had to learn very quickly and I'm still learning still trying to figure out there is no silver bullet to figure out, you know, who's down and who's not.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: But I think that was one thing that I didn't expect to happen. I didn't expect people from my own community that looked like me to not want to help or want to bring me down. So I'd say that was one. And then on the other side, it's. When you're one of the few, um, faces with melanin in the room, and you're trying to offer suggestions, how do you, how do you essentially say, I don't feel comfortable with just white people planning events or planning things for people [00:12:00] of color?

Briana Muñoz-Flores: How do you say that so that it doesn't come off as, um, what are words? So it doesn't come off as, like, I'm not, I don't want to be rude, but I want to be on behalf of the students. Are these things that our students want? Are these things that it's pushing back on on what, on the subjects, on things that happen?

Briana Muñoz-Flores: For example, there's a, I was just in a meeting last week. We were talking about career opportunity, a career readiness summit for potential for system impacted underrepresented and minoritized students. And the women I were, I was meeting with did not have melanin in their skin. So I was very, and now I'm in this position, I knew them a little bit more and I was very honest about, I just want to make sure that we're centering the students.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Yeah. We're centering their students were centering their needs. And I don't know if that was something I would be able to do 10 years ago. You know, how do you say that? Or I don't think I [00:13:00] would have the words to say it. I would definitely want to do it. I would definitely say something. But one, I wouldn't have been in that meeting 10 years ago.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So who would have been in that meeting? Who was in that meeting 10 years ago? And two, how do you say it? And how do you build those relationships so that people know? Where you're coming from and understand you. They were very receptive to it and they completely understood I'm still going to be intentional about what I suggest for that and what I do and don't help, but I think that was also harder and something for, that could potentially become a toxic work environment if the people on the other side of that table aren't receptive to what you're saying.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: If they just want to do what's always been done. I'm

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: curious, what do you think that changed? Because you said you wouldn't have been able to say that 10 years ago. And then at the same time, the other thing that that comes to mind that I think comes up a lot when people do speak up is that then they become the like representative, like token person or DEI person.[00:14:00]

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And so I'm wondering like, yeah, what has changed for you and also how do you navigate that potential issue of, of as soon as you open your mouth about something, folks want to make it about this becoming your project.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Yeah, so I think that is twofold. One, because of my experience in family businesses just a side note, my grandfather raised me to know that I owned those businesses, but I had to learn from the ground up.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So I came into those businesses as like a waitress at like our restaurant, but knowing that like, I need to take care of this because this will be mine. So I have no problem going into a room and raising my hand and offering suggestions. Now for me, when it comes to my community, I get very emotional and when I get emotional, I lose some of my vocabulary.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So some, so I can say it, but it probably won't be received well [00:15:00] because that's the way I'd be talking to a friend or the way I'd be talking to my father. So I think. Recently, I have especially and also vocabulary around DEI has changed multiple times since I was in college since I started doing this work and talking about it has changed multiple times.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So it's also making sure that I'm using the right verbiage. That if they don't understand how do I explain this verbiage? So I think for me, it was also checking myself and checking my emotions, but not losing the passion. So I think that was important for me. And then what was the second part of the question?

Briana Muñoz-Flores: There was something else. Yeah. So

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: first it was like, Oh my gosh, now I'm like.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So you're, you're in a scenario and I was saying like, how do you not run into the trap of being the person that gets assigned all the things because you're the one that said something about it?

Briana Muñoz-Flores: It's learning how to say respectfully no. [00:16:00] And I think that is a trap that I have fallen into multiple times because one, it's something I termed the Latina hostess.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: gene or training is that I was trained to take care of people. I'm the oldest and the only girl. I have three younger brothers, you know, you're raised to take care of the house. You're raised to take care. And not just like physically, but also just generally, you know, like, how do I take care of people?

Briana Muñoz-Flores: How do I care about people? And I'm going to do all of these things because I can do it, probably do it better in all honesty. But. That can become toxic when it comes to work. If you apply that to work and don't know boundaries or don't have boundaries or don't know how to set boundaries, that could become toxic.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So it's learning how to say no respectfully, learning how to center yourself in that. And so if someone does that to me now, now it would be like, Okay, I would love to be part of it, but is there anyone else in the room that would like to be part of it? I don't know that I have the capacity to do that right now or just holding off and saying, you know what, I need to [00:17:00] double check my capacity.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So once we get through this meeting, let's talk about deliverables and I can see what I can do. I would love to be part of it. I don't know that I, Have the ability to lead it. And that's something that I would not have been able to say 10 years ago. I would not have been able to say three years ago because I would be so hungry to do this.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: And I know that students want this. I know that students want this. But I need to center myself. I need to work on myself. And that is also a trap. that many, many people in higher education fall into that we want to help the students, but even more so those of us who work with underrepresented communities in higher education, where you, we know you want this and we know you need this.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: And I, as a Latina, want to give this to you, but I also need to like, focus on myself and make sure that like, I'm good. The rest of my job is getting done. And you know, I can sleep essentially

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: learning to say no. And what's the word [00:18:00] like diplomatic way and setting boundaries in a way that is, you know, conscientious of.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: how people will take what you're going to say. So knowing, like you said, what the verbiage to use in each situation to set boundaries and say, no, those are two really good strategies for managing toxic work environments. Are there any other strategies aside from those two? Because I feel like I hear folks say this over and over again of like set boundaries and we know how hard that can be.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And I hear say no. And again, that can be really, really hard, but anything else. That has been helpful to you, or that might be helpful to listeners who might be in the middle of toxic work environments and kind of struggling to manage it.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Honestly, for me, the best was, so I don't do a lot of things on my behalf, but I will fight for you on your behalf, you know, so I don't look out for my own boundaries, but if I were to talk to you about it.[00:19:00]

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Like say we were in similar situations. Then I would be like, Oh, I should probably do that for myself. So I would say find, find someone to talk to about this, not just. therapy and not just someone outside, but someone that understands higher education. So there are different mentoring groups on different college, college campuses for staff.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: There's different areas. And that's someone that you build that trust with and figure out how can I, can I discuss this with you? That is hard, especially on your own, if we're talking about higher ed, because colleges are so small. Everyone knows everyone, and you don't want to, and I think that is a fear as well, you don't want to like talk to the wrong person, quote unquote, and then it gets back and then it becomes this whole thing.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: But I think what's important is sharing what's going on, finding your support network, and being able to talk through this with someone else. If someone else motivates you to do it If you hear it from someone else, I think something similar to like what you kind of spoke of about therapy, what I'm looking at as like [00:20:00] looking back in time, if someone else tells you like, you know, that's not okay, then you're more likely to do it with that type of motivation.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So that's what I would suggest is really lean into your support network, finding people that understand you and that you're able to discuss these situations. They may not fully understand the specifics of it, right? But someone that you trust, that knows you well, that can see you I think that's really important because I think that was the hardest thing.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: That is the hardest thing because toxic work environment seems so isolating, especially when, for me, I had other co workers, but they never saw what was happening to me. And the moment they saw it, it was like six months in and I had been done like my first two weeks, but six months later, they were like, Oh, I get it now.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: And it's like, they can hear you and they can listen, but they don't actually experience it. And they're in the job too. So they're trying to like, like, you know, I get that this is your experience, but that's not my experience. I'm just going to kind of listen to you, [00:21:00] but I don't get it. But it wasn't until they saw it and they got it that they were like, Oh, yeah.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Okay. Now I fully understand like what's happening. So it can be very isolating. I would say lean into your support network finding that out or journaling, whatever works for you to get all of that out and that you're able to hear it back, whether that is therapy or your own support network, your friends, your family.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: I think that was the hardest part for me, was because, now honestly, my parents didn't fully understand what I was saying, so they really told me just to like, suck it up. Suck it up, deal with it, and I just stopped talking to them about it, because I was like, that's not what I need. You don't understand, you don't get it.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: And so it, and I was still, I was still in my mind listening to like, you have to be there for two years. You can't leave before the two year mark because they, right, say that on your resume you have to have two years. So I was still believing in that and truly suffering [00:22:00] because I didn't know the way out and I was so worried as my first job after grad out of grad school.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: I was so worried about what was going to happen. But we're in a brand new time when it comes to work, you know, when it comes to work, when it comes to mental health, when it comes to all of that. So anything that I. Was scared of or didn't know about back then. I feel like people know about now. It is more talked about, you know, bandwidth you're taking care of yourself.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: It is more talked about, you know, job hopping is okay. If it's for your mental health, you know, if you if it's so a lot of the things that kept me in my toxic situation are not necessarily. as heavy of a weight as they are now, as they were then. So some people may still believe in that, but I don't think it's going to be as suffocating as it was for me.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: And I think that's, something beautiful that what's happening right now is that [00:23:00] for those of us that have been in, you know, higher ed or have been working for a while, we are now able to kind of relax. And it is unlearning a lot of those toxic traits, but then some of the younger You know, full timers that are going into full time, going into graduate school, you know, they're coming in off of COVID, which truly taught us, you know, how to take care of yourselves, how to stop, how to, you know, honestly, how businesses treat you, how all of that.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So I think them being able to see that, I'm hoping will change the way they're seeing their work environment and how they treat themselves and setting boundaries and all of that.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: You know, you're right that with COVID and also more conversations that are being had about mental health, about bandwidth, that Maybe perhaps some workplace environments are seeing a change, but as you and I both know, academia, higher ed in general is very, very slow at adapting to [00:24:00] change.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And so I know that there are going to be folks who have supervisors or managers who are not quote unquote with the times and who view things as they have to be done a certain way. And. You know, sometimes I feel like folks that are being toxic don't even realize that they're being toxic. And so if If that's the case, like how do we challenge it aside from like self preservation and doing the things to set boundaries, but like if you are in a position of power of you one day become a manager of you one day become a supervisor.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: How do you make sure that you don't reify the same toxic environment that You are that you were like trained in or that you were part of because that's all you know, like what, yeah, what can we do to challenge it so that we make sure we're not the ones being

Briana Muñoz-Flores: toxic. Yeah, and I feel like I'm going through that right now so I feel like for [00:25:00] me, where my imposter syndrome comes in is as a manager, you know, in the back of my head it's like, Oh, I don't know if I'm worthy and I constantly.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So I. I feel like I overcompensate for not being a toxic manager by being more hands off or more like loosey goosey because I'm so scared of any directive that I say will be considered toxic. And that's something that I'm working through and the way I'm working through it is by being completely honest with my direct report and opening up and You know, we're doing this as a, as a team, but then also going to trainings.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: I've been going to different management trainings, utilizing some of that, the things that I, I know, but like now, like I know, you know, so it's making sure it's being honest that, you know, I'm working through these things and it, I mean, it's sad, but it also helps that my direct report is also working through getting through a toxic work environment.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So I'm actually [00:26:00] mentoring her and getting through that by letting her know that like I'm still working through that, you know, so you may be a year out. I am, you know, almost 10 years out of that situation. I'm still working through it. So I would say checking in with yourself and doing trainings and trying to make it more objective instead of subjective.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So objective training. So being a manager, you have to do A, B, and C, right? And how do we do A, B, and C? And then you can kind of loosen up and Be and like, put your own personal spin on it or do all of that, but then also being completely open, having those avenues of communication, having your employees unofficially review you as well.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So that's what I do with my direct report. I mean, no 1 really likes to be reviewed, but I think that's what's important. And I wish more universities and I just wish more more programs and more offices did, you know. Reverse reviews, you know, what can I do more to support you? And that's constantly what I'm [00:27:00] asking now.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Unfortunately, I'm still in a higher education as an institution. So I am overworked. I'm not able to be the mentor and the supervisor that necessarily want to be, but anytime I can send professional development opportunities to my direct report, I do. anything that they want to do or learn, I'm definitely supportive of.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So it's really just being open. And also for me, sometimes it does come out. Sometimes it does come out, you know, what are you doing? I kind of want to know what she's doing, but then it's the other voice. And it's like, no, you just. You're just being nosy like you don't need to know what she's doing every single minute of the day when she's remote, you know and so it's really learning about yourself and figuring out ways to skirt to not be the manager that you had, or the co worker that you had, or whatever that looks like and it's asking for help in forms of training in forms of You know, therapy, different things like that.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So [00:28:00] that's what I would suggest. And just try and understand yourself as a manager.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: One thing we haven't talked about. I usually ask folks so like what advice would you give to someone who is in this situation, maybe I'm struggling to get out can't get out but I actually want to shift things a little bit and talk about when do we have to take bigger action, like at what point.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Is it necessary to consult with HR at one point? Is it necessary to report someone or to document or to create an exit strategy and to leave? Because I do think that a lot of folks feel like they are stuck in toxic situations. And that then leads to setting boundaries, et cetera, like trying to like protect themselves in some way, shape, or form.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: But in some cases. it is necessary to do something bigger, like a bigger, take a bigger action. So in, yeah, from what you know, like, [00:29:00] what would you recommend would be the time that you have to take bigger action that you have to lean on? I don't know, either the exit strategy or potentially working with other Units to get this issue

Briana Muñoz-Flores: rectified.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Yeah. So I think once, once you feel like whatever is happening to you is happening multiple times, start documenting the minute it happens again. Start documenting. It can be your own private document, but start documenting. But then also if it ends up being a supervisor or a coworker, what I heard of a good strategy is after you have an in person meeting then, or even a zoom meeting, then follow up with an email.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Okay, I just want to understand that these are the deliverables, I know you said this for me it's on the form of like, playing dumb as well, and I say that because it's like, you said this in the meeting, is this what you meant? And then they have to respond to that, so it's not necessarily, [00:30:00] attacking them or accusing them.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Because I do want to understand sometimes things come off a certain way, but then sometimes you know it doesn't, but you kind of want them to confirm it, then that's in writing. So then after every, and that's covering your butt, that's also making sure that you have documentation should anything happen.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: If it gets to a point and everyone has different levels and it's really a level setting with yourself, if it gets to a point where you literally can't work, can't go into work or you freak out and it's and you've been documenting and all of that, that's when I would go to, for example, on college campuses, there's ombuds.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So there's some type of mediation for that. Also, if there's What I would say when you're documenting, figure out who's, who would be an ally in your office. Sometimes their direct supervisor is not an ally, but their co worker might be. But someone who's like their supervisor's supervisor might be an ally.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So you need to find allies so that someone will [00:31:00] believe you and not just... Continue the cycle. And I think that's really important of who you can go to should you need to move it forward. And I would say always have an exit strategy. Always have an exit strategy. You're like, honestly, and so for me I don't move jobs without a job lined up just financially and just for my own mental health.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: I don't do that. So. One, you saw or I mentioned earlier that ended up being a very toxic situation because I didn't move. I didn't think to move earlier than possible. But also I feel like when you move out of desperation is when I found that I Just took whatever was out there because I just needed to get out there.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Now, sometimes you're at that point, but I don't want anyone else to get out at that point. So I would say always update your resume. Always have you, you know, a cover letter if you're or whatever, have your LinkedIn updated at all [00:32:00] times. Check the job postings, get onto different sites, figure out what you want to do.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: But I would say start your exit plan in a time when you're not triggered. Yeah, because being triggered will make you jump faster and maybe not jump into a position that you necessarily want. For example, mine, I went into like a lateral move, but I moved in with my parents because I just, it tore me down so much that I just wasn't myself and couldn't see anything.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So I took a lateral move and really worked on my mental health and worked on getting better and then was able to make an upward movement. And my lateral move only lasted a year because But it lasted a year because it took me that long to kind of overcome. So if that's what you need then do it.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: That's what I needed at that time. But if you can, if you have those moments of clarity where you're not triggered, that's where I would suggest people go in and figure out what they would want, what their next step is. Do you want to do a lateral move? Do you want to [00:33:00] continue? Do you want to look at salary and looking at all of that?

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Because also when you're in desperation, you just take whatever salary you can get. You don't look at and. Women of color are notorious for, one, underselling ourselves, two, not applying to jobs where we don't fit 100 percent of the criteria, and then three, not negotiating. Now, I am notorious for doing all of those, continuously, like still to this day, I still, but I'm working on it, but so, that is a time where it's figuring out what is your next step.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: And always having that on hand. Always having a resume ready. Always looking at what could you do next. Do you want to stay in the industry? Do you want to move, move industries? What does that look like? And making a plan to do that. Also, upskill. Utilize professional development funds if you have those in your workplace or if you don't.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Utilize different scholarship opportunities to get different certificates to move up and move out. Or figure out your budget. How is, you know, can you not? Eat out as much and, like, pay for, like, [00:34:00] a Google certificate for a couple months because those certificates are getting, you know, more and more airtime, if you will, more and more people are looking for different certificates, or it's also a way to see, like, what can you transition into what can you pivot towards?

Briana Muñoz-Flores: So that's what I would highly suggest. And utilizing anything on campus. Any staff days, anything that's viable, you know, that they'll pay for different things like that, but utilizing that to your advantage, not just as a day to get out of the office, but as a day to fully network to see what else is out there.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: And just. Figuring out a plan. I think you always need an exit strategy for every single thing you do, because you just never know, especially in this economy, you know, post COVID we saw, you never know what's going to happen. So

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: true. Yes, we're getting close to wrapping up so before we go I want to ask if there's any other closing words that you have for anyone who might find themselves in this tough predicament of dealing with a [00:35:00] Toxic workspace or toxic supervisor, advisor, you name it.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yeah, anything else you want to share? Closing words of advice?

Briana Muñoz-Flores: You deserve to not hate your job. You deserve to have the time back from freaking out about your job. You deserve to not have stomach issues from your job. I had major stomach issues from my job. I had major all of this. You deserve to have a job where you don't have medical issues because of your job.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Also, it is okay to have a job that gives you a lot of money but not be super passionate about it. I think that's something. That I am definitely learning because passion will often make you fall into those toxic traps as well. And it's not a bad thing. I'm just, you know, it is okay to not love your job.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: And it is okay for your next step to be about the money because this economy, you know, and I just think. Giving yourself permission to do that and to [00:36:00] focus on yourself and what is better for yourself, I think that is one of the most radical ideas that we as Latinas, as women of color can believe in, because I think that's something that has been taken away from us and that I think that we need to reclaim, and even in, you know, the way for your job, and I just think in everything, but specifically your job, and especially if you're supporting your family or Working External family definitely reclaim yourself and like center yourself in your next steps.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: That's great. That's those are great closing words. I couldn't have said it any better. I I would like for you to also tell us how can folks reach you, connect with you, if they resonated with what you said, if they would like to perhaps, I don't know, chat with you, conduct an informational interview, you name it, network.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yeah. Where can

Briana Muñoz-Flores: they find you? Yeah, so so I am on LinkedIn the link is LinkedIn slash Briana MF, it's [00:37:00] a link to my profile, and then my email is Briana May, B R I A N A M A Y 2 6 at gmail. com, and those are the best two ways to do it. Yeah, and all of this applies to also labs, grad students that are in labs.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Those are notorious for being very toxic as well. Anything you're doing, even if it is family businesses, you know, that can also be a different type of toxic. But yeah, feel free to contact me if you all have any questions, comments, concerns, or if you just want to speak about things, want suggestions, or just want to, you know, want to talk.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: I'm definitely open to responding to anyone and talking to anyone. Thanks

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: so much, Briana, for sharing this wealth of knowledge and experience. I know there's going to be... So every time I've talked about anything that uses the word toxic in my podcast, I see that the listens go up. And so I wouldn't be surprised if we get a lot of listens for this episode.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Unfortunately, that's a sad reality about navigating higher ed and a lot of work environments. We have to take care [00:38:00] of ourselves, protect ourselves, make sure that... We are not finding ourselves in these environments. And if we are, that we are doing something about it. And if we're the ones that are the culprits to also do better.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So thank you again for this conversation.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Yeah, thank you for so much for having me and agreeing to do this topic. I know it's a little outside of what you usually talk about, but I definitely think it is needed, especially for the communities that you speak on. And especially for those going into graduate school, you know, knowing what they want and what they don't want or to see in their graduate school environments, because that can also be a very toxic situation as well.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Right,

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: right. Well, thank you again.

Briana Muñoz-Flores: Thank you.

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