Have you been in a setting where the speaker constantly used the pronoun ‘he’ or the term ‘guys’ to refer to all people? Or maybe someone has mispronounced your name because ‘it is too difficult to say’?
These everyday subtle, intentional, or unintentional interactions or behaviors can make one feel like they do not belong or are not accepted in the workplace, and can have a huge impact in your overall performance
Given that you spend the majority of your life at work, microaggressions in the workplace have a profound impact on your mental, spiritual, and even physical health.
Microaggressions can be:
- Verbal – when someone says something offensive or disrespectful to you.
- Behavioral – insensitive or problematic actions that often play into identity stereotypes. For instance, being asked to smile more in your performance review.
- Environmental – expressed in society through lack of representation, inclusion, and diversity.
Microaggressions can significantly and adversely impact organizational health by creating a toxic work culture that corrodes your engagement and overall work experience. Here are some ways to recognize and overcome them:
- Challenge the stereotype – Give information and share your own informed opinion. You can also offer alternative perspectives.
- Use humor – Exaggerate the comments and use gentle sarcasm. For instance, someone says ‘ she plays like a girl. You could ask ‘ you mean she plays like Serena Williams?’
- Pretend you don’t understand – As people try to explain their comments, they often realize how silly they sound.
- Separate intent from impact – You could tell them ‘ I know you didn’t realize this but when you said .(insert their comments) it was hurtful and offensive. Instead, you could say…(different language )
- Promote empathy – Ask how they would feel if someone said something like that about their partner, child, or sibling.
- Restate or paraphrase – You could say ‘ I think I heard you saying…(paraphrase their words) is that correct?
- Remind them of the rules and regulations – Remind them that that behavior is against the code of conduct and could get them in trouble.
- Share your own process – We have all participated in microaggression one way or the other before we knew better. Share how you became aware of your behavior and changed.
- Encourage employees to speak out – Create an open space where other employees can speak out, and when they do, take complaints or allegations about discriminatory behavior seriously.
Sources: davidsonmorris, businessinsider, baker, wie, academicaffairs, cultureamp