Microaggressions in the workplace are sadly a common occurrence in many companies. It comes in the form of a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against individuals from a marginalized group, such as ethnic minority, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, people coming from low socioeconomic status, among others.
Microaggressions usually happen unwittingly and unintentionally. People in the workplace who commit microaggressions are often unaware that they have committed one. However, the remark is offensive to the individual receiving it – regardless if it was said jokingly or the intent was not really to offend anybody.
Types and Examples of Microaggressions in the Workplace
Microaggressions in the workplace is more widespread than you think.
Available data shows that more than 26 percent of Americans have experienced microaggression at work, while 22 percent were unsure if they have experienced microaggression in the workplace. On the other hand, 36 percent of those surveyed said they had witnessed microaggression in the workplace, mostly coming from individuals with unconscious bias. The same study also revealed that only 40 percent of the respondents were certain that they did not witness microaggression in the workplace.
How do you know if a microaggression has indeed been committed? What are the types of microaggressions most commonly committed in the workplace?
- Racial or ethnic microaggressions refer to subtle racial slights that can be offensive and hurtful. Many individuals who experienced this type of microaggression often find it extremely difficult to reply to this particular microaggression. Even though they feel hurt and insulted, the most common reaction to a racial or ethnic slur is to say nothing or make it seem like it did not happen at all. The most typical examples of racial microaggressions reveal unconscious biases of individuals who commit these microaggressions. For instance, connecting how a person looks or his level of intelligence to his ethnicity and telling the person about it is a typical example of racial microaggression.
- Microaggressions on citizenship are also common instances that happen in the workplace. Often, people in the workplace judge a co-worker’s origins based on his accent or the individual’s competency in English. Comments such as “You’re English is a bit odd. Where are you really from?” are prime examples.
- Socioeconomic microaggressions happen when people pass comments on how individuals coming from a specific socioeconomic background should look or behave. Words like “You don’t seem to come from a poor family. Why did you go to that school?” or “You don’t seem to come from that kind of neighborhood” are examples of this type of microaggression.
- Gender microaggressions are also quite common in the workplace. They reveal gender biases and false perceptions aimed at a particular orientation. Have you ever uttered “Don’t be such a sissy” or “That is so gay!” to your colleagues at work? These comments are classic examples of this type of microaggression.
There are more varied examples of microaggressions in the workplace, such as microaggression on mental health, parental status, and religious affiliation. However, these types all have one thing in common – they are detrimental to your company.
Microaggressions work against your company or any organization’s goal for equity and inclusion. It goes against the purpose of giving employees a safe and inclusive work environment and a sense of belongingness. Hence, it is paramount to proactively address microaggressions in the workplace and other forms of subtle discrimination in the workplace.
How To Prevent Microaggressions in the Workplace
There is no foolproof approach to effectively dealing with microaggressions in the workplace. Truth to say, the more your company talks about it, the higher the chance it becomes visible and palpable for employees.
Unlearning our biases could also be a tall order for many of us. Accepting criticisms and identifying and reflecting on these teachable moments often takes time and a lot of sensitivity for someone who has committed a microaggression. But making great strides towards lessening, if not eliminating, microaggression in the workplace is not at all an impossible thing to do.
Here are some guidelines and handling that you may find useful.
1. Learn how to apologize sincerely.
When you or someone you know has committed a microaggression, the worst thing to do is to act defensively. Do not treat it as a joke or as something unintended – even though it was. Instead, acknowledge the fact that you have hurt a co-worker. It may be a tall order for many, but looking at the big picture, this is the right and magnanimous thing to do.
2. Use the incident to improve yourself.
Instead of being defensive or too guilt-ridden for a long time, use the incident as a learning experience for you to know more about yourself. It is a reflective and teachable moment where you can discover your deep-seated personal biases and your perceptions about others. Be very open about these biases to yourself so you can learn from them.
3. Get to know your colleagues on a more personal level.
Remember that your organization consists of people with a common goal. However, you all come from different backgrounds. Embrace diversity and learn more about them. Get to spend time with your colleagues and get to know them more as people. It will help eliminate your unconscious biases because you are already developing a personal bond with your colleagues.
4. Educate yourself.
As you continually expose yourself to various perspectives and diverse backgrounds, complement your learning with books, films, tv shows, podcasts, and other forms of media that will help you raise more awareness about the diversity around you. This, too, will help demolish your personal biases.
5. Push for policy changes within your organization.
You can help minimize microaggressions in the workplace by introducing company-wide changes that cater to inclusivity and celebrate diversity. Push for more resources to help your company foster diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. These may come in the form of gender-neutral bathrooms, prayer and reflection rooms, or seminars about diversity and inclusivity in the workplace.
PARTNER WITH A RECRUITING FIRM THAT EMBRACES DIVERSITY AND INCLUSIVITY, LIKE FOX SEARCH GROUP.
Established by a woman, Fox Search Group’s pool of expert recruiters can genuinely partner with you to help you land a job in a company that celebrates diversity and inclusivity. For employers, the Fox Search Group can also help you hire top tech professionals who are diverse, highly qualified, and truly the best of the best. By having a diverse pool of employees, you will be right on track toward minimizing microaggressions in the workplace.