Microaggressions in the Workplace

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“where are you from?”

“I think I’ll will sit over there

“we need to give you another name”

These are all types of aggressions I have personally experienced at the workplace. As an Asian female, I belong to a socially marginalised group and this created barriers for me at work.  The prejudices of superiors, colleagues and clients can be difficult – they were for me.

A marginalised group are those under the protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010.

What do we mean by microaggression?

Microaggression is where a person communicates hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target people based solely on their marginalised group membership.

Microaggressions can be subtle, they are often said with a smile or in a friendly way; nonetheless each one can be hurtful. They can make the workplace uncomfortable, unsafe and over time, create a toxic culture.

Irrespective of how the comment was intended, it is how it is perceived by the recipient that is important. In essence, one single comment could potentially be sufficient evidence for the recipient to win a claim of discrimination or harassment in a Tribunal.    

What if I commit microaggressions?  

If someone confronts you on your behaviour, listen and to what he or she is trying to say and do not become aggressive, admit the wrongdoing, and apologise.  Just remember it is how your comment or behaviour is perceived by the recipient, that is what is important, regardless if you were unaware of your actions.

Become more aware and honest of your prejudices and fears and ask yourself how they might hurt others.

Take responsibility to find out more – educate yourself. Seek out interactions with people who different from you, e.g., in terms of race, ethnicity and other qualities.

Become an ally and personally stand against all forms of bias and discrimination.

The most inclusive workplaces take proactive steps to make sure marginalised people can fully participate at work. 

As a leader, you have a pivotal role in providing the leadership of a workplace to instil a culture that leaves out exclusionary practices.

If you are an organisation who is serious about creating inclusive workplaces and would like more information about Unconscious bias or DEI training contact us.

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