How to effectively respond to microaggressions at work
Oxford defines the act of microaggression as a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority. There are many different aspects of microaggressions that can be addressed, but the inadvertent dismissal of black women can be felt throughout their everyday lives. Black women often face microaggressions in the workplace, in social situations and even from family members and friends. These unintentional slights can range from being told that you're "too loud" or "aggressive" to being ignored or treated like you're invisible. While microaggressions may seem like harmless comments or actions, they can create an environment of feeling unwelcome, unvalued and inferior. Fortunately, there are ways to address these issues when they occur. By speaking up and assertively communicating how the comment or action made you feel, you can help to educate others about the impact of their words and actions. Additionally, supporting organizations and initiatives that focus on empowering black women can help to create a more inclusive and welcoming world for everyone.
We've all been there. You're minding your own business, going about your workday, when suddenly someone says or does something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Maybe it's a coworker who makes a racist joke, or a boss who constantly interrupts you. If you’re still unsure, here are a few common signs:
1. You feel isolated or excluded from workplace conversations or activities
2. You feel uneasy, uncomfortable, or offended by something that was said or done.
3. You can't shake the feeling that someone is judging you based on your race, gender, sexuality, or other aspects of your identity.
4. You feel like you have to constantly prove yourself or justify your presence in the workplace
5. You’re always asked to do the “Diversity Work” in your department
6. Co-workers and/or upper management talking over you during meetings
If you experience any of these things, it's important to take action. Microaggressions can have a major impact on your mental health and sense of self-worth, so it's important to address them head-on. The best way to do this is to speak up – don't feel like you're unable or powerless to do so.
If you're still not sure, here are a few other identifiers:
1. Pay attention to the language that is used. If colleagues regularly use offensive or exclusionary terms, it's likely that microaggressions are taking place.
2. Observe body language and tone of voice. If people seem uncomfortable or are speaking in a condescending or negative manner, microaggressions may be happening.
3. Pay attention to patterns of behavior. If certain groups of people are consistently excluded from projects or social events, or if they are constantly being asked to do lower-status tasks, microaggressions are likely taking place.
4. Trust your gut. If something feels off, it probably is.
How to respond to microaggressions.
The workplace can be a minefield of these situations. From the colleague who asks you where you're really from, to the boss who always interrupts you in meetings, it can be tough to know how to respond. But there are a few key things to keep in mind that can help you address microaggressions at work:
1. You can try to educate the offender.
This can be difficult, but it's important to try. Maybe the person will end up seeing your point and promise to be more mindful of their interactions with those of different backgrounds and/or experiences. Maybe it can also become a teachable moment for them and others they may know.
2. You can document the microaggressions you experience.
This can help you keep track of what's happening and also provide evidence if you decide to take further action. It may not come to you having to pursue these actions, but it doesn't hurt to have a game plan.
3. You can talk to a supervisor or HR representative about the situation.
They may be able to help address the issue. Because diversity is such a hot button topic, this may swiftly rectify the situation. No one wants their company to receive the bad press from something like this going public.