Let’s talk microaggressions. Merriam-Webster defines microaggressions 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.
In short, a microaggression is someone verbalizing their unconscious racial, cultural, or sexist bias. Many times the person who is exhibiting the microaggression doesn’t even realize they’re doing it. I’m going to explain to you some examples of microaggressions in the workplace and how to deal with them when you’re faced with them.
Many people think “but I’m a minority, I can’t exhibit microaggressions.” Even as a black woman, during my research to write this blog I have realized that I too am guilty of some of these things. I will now be working to actively avoid it going forward.
I’m going to be honest. Most people don’t intend to be racist, sexist, or homophobic and probably don’t think they’re even capable of being able to be discriminatory or bias. This is where microaggressions come in. It’s the behavior that you or someone else exhibits that communicates a derogatory or hostile message to another person. These microaggressions stem from assumptions made about a person based on their race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, or even age.
Microaggressions can create a negative and toxic workplace. A toxic workplace creates high turnover and bad working conditions.
If you have never thought about microaggressions, you may not know when you’re exhibiting the signs. Let’s go through a few of the themes/ways to spot microaggressions along with examples.
Microaggressions can affect any minority, this means regardless of if you are a minority race, gender, or sexual identity. You don’t have to deal with them though. You can talk to someone, report it to someone, or even stand up to it yourself.
How to Deal With It
Pause. Ask them to repeat or clarify what they meant, or even just take a moment to decide if you want to react or even respond at all.
Assumption. Don’t get defensive. You don’t want to get into an argument, that’s not the intent of dealing with the situation. You want this to be a situation of growth, not one of a hinderance. Where does their mindset come from? Can this be a learning situation? The message sent is not always the message received, and the intended meaning is often lost in translation.
Cut ‘Em Some Slack. Test your assumption. If you assume that they’re a jerk, test it. Maybe they are. Think about a time that you forgot to text someone back. They were probably pissed and thought that you were being a jerk, but in actuality you truly just forgot. This may be their case, it wasn’t an intentional thing on their part, but if they didn’t know they didn’t know BUT if it happens AFTER you told them….. don’t give slack again.
Explain. Tell them how their statement made you feel, hurt, or it impacted you. Start your sentence with: “This was likely not intentional but…”, “It may surprise you to hear this but….”, “You may not realize this but….”
Perspective. Don’t just tell them they’re wrong. They’ll automatically become defensive (don’t we all). You have to tell them. “That’s not alway’s right, I’ve experienced it as…”
You Can Make A Difference
Microaggressions have micro in the name, but there is nothing micro about them. They can make a great workplace a toxic one. Your words have power. It’s up to you to decide how you will use them.