If you are a person of color (POC), you likely have been fielding microaggressions all your life. So, dealing with them in the workplace may be nothing new. Still, they are part and parcel of the larger problem of workplace discrimination.
Learning to identify microaggressions can help you determine how to respond to them appropriately and safely.
What are microaggressions?
According to one author and psychologist, microaggressions are “everyday slights, indignities, put-downs and insults that people of color, women, LGBT populations or those who are marginalized experience in their day-to-day interactions with people.”
Some are subtle and unintentional on the part of the microaggressor. Others are more blatant, and their intent is quite obvious — to put a worker “in their place” and remind them of their “otherness.”
How microaggressions affect the workplace environment
If you are a worker who is subjected to a constant barrage of (or even occasional) microaggressions, your performance can tank. You can feel tensions rise between team members and co-workers, and your own emotional security can be adversely affected.
In fact, microaggressions toward you can lead to lower performance reviews that could potentially be used to justify a future termination.
How you can respond to microaggressions and discrimination
Determining your response depends largely on the type of microaggression you experience. Regardless of your decision, document each and every instance of microaggression that you experience.
You may decide that it is not worth confronting, although this can foment resentment and leave you simmering. You may lash out in anger, which could possibly be misconstrued with you portrayed as the aggressor in the matter. Lastly, you could use the instance as a teachable moment and explain to your co-worker why calling a POC “articulate” is not the compliment that they thought that it would be.
If you see that microaggressions are increasing and the workplace is becoming more hostile, it may be time to review your legal options in the matter.