Addressing Microaggressions in the Workplace
“The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership”
-From Diversity in the Classroom, UCLA Diversity and Faculty Development, 2014
As a career woman, you will undoubtedly encounter at least a few microagressions throughout your career. If you feel as though are experiencing one, it’s important to be equipped to handle the situation both effectively and professionally. Here are a few ways that you can start to train yourself to respond when faced with what you feel is a microaggression:
The most important thing to remember is to stay level-headed. The last thing that you want to do is to launch into an attack or a rebuttal without fully planning what you are going to say. Retaliating while angry will usually just work against you, because the “aggressor” in question will be more likely to label you as emotional, sensitive, or unable to perform under high-pressure situations. So, keep your cool, as they say, and allow yourself to calmly step back and process your thoughts and intentions.
Don’t Immediately Jump to Conclusions
Remember, that microaggressions can be unintentional. It is likely that the person you are interacting comes from a different background than you, and they may truly not understand that what they did or said was offensive to you in any way. Acknowledging the possibility that the microaggression may not have been intentional is KEY. Decide whether or not you want to address the microaggression, or if you want to let it go, because it may just be a one-time issue.
Focus on What Occurred
If you do decide to say something, it is important to separate the microaggression from the individual in question . Directing the focus of your discussion to the event that occurred will help to eliminate a bit of the defensiveness that you would likely be faced with. The most successful method to handling these kinds of situations is to talk only about what occurred if possible. This may feel difficult or counterintuitive, but removing your personal feelings from the situation and only stating the facts about why the behaviour was inappropriate will help eliminate the possibility of an interpersonal power struggle.