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How to Stop Micro Aggression at Work

How to handle micro aggressions at work

Micro aggressions are defined as the everyday, subtle, intentional — and oftentimes unintentional — interactions or behaviors that communicate some sort of bias toward historically marginalized groups.

We’ve all seen it or experienced it personally.  Do these sound familiar?

“Oh, you speak so well.:

“Where are you from?... I mean originally” 

Or the infamous, “No offense…” comments.

Regardless of the situation, it is hurtful to the person it’s done to.  When this happens in the workplace, it can be especially difficult to navigate.  While handling micro aggressions at work can be challenging, it's important to address them and in a constructive manner. Here are some suggestions on how to stop micro aggressions at work:

  • Stay Calm and Reflect:

  • Take a moment to collect your thoughts and assess the situation. It's essential to remain calm and composed when responding to micro aggressions.

  • Ask

  • “What do you mean by that?”  Follow the Stephen Covey rule of seek first to understand, then to be understood.

  • Educate:

  • Some individuals may not be aware that their comments or actions are offensive. Consider educating the person about the impact of their words or behavior, explaining why it is inappropriate.

  • Express Your Feelings:

  • Use "I" statements to express how the micro aggression made you feel. For example, say, "I felt uncomfortable when you said [comment]. Can we discuss why that might be hurtful?"

  • Provide Feedback:

  • If you feel comfortable, offer constructive feedback about the specific microaggression. Help the person understand why their words or actions are problematic and suggest alternative ways to express themselves.

  • Document Incidents:

  • Keep a record of instances of microaggressions, including dates, times, and descriptions of what occurred. This documentation can be useful if you need to escalate the issue or discuss it with a supervisor or HR.

  • Seek Support:

  • Talk to colleagues or friends for support and advice. They may have experienced similar situations and can offer guidance on how to navigate these challenges.

  • Use Company Resources:

  • Familiarize yourself with your company's policies on diversity, equity, and inclusion. If micro aggressions persist, consider reporting the incidents to HR and follow the appropriate channels outlined in your organization's guidelines.

  • Escalate if Necessary:

  • If the micro aggressions persist or escalate, and your attempts to address the issue internally have been unsuccessful, consider escalating the matter to higher management or seeking advice from a legal professional.

  • Self-Care:

  • Dealing with micro aggressions can be emotionally draining. Take care of yourself by practicing self-care. This may include talking to a therapist, engaging in activities you enjoy, or taking breaks when needed.

  • Promote Inclusion:

  • Advocate for workplace diversity and inclusion initiatives. Encourage open discussions about diversity and educate your colleagues on the importance of creating a respectful and inclusive work environment.

Remember that each situation is unique, and the best approach may vary. It's essential to prioritize your well-being and work towards fostering a more inclusive workplace culture. If you find that the microaggressions persist or escalate, it may be necessary to seek guidance from HR or other appropriate channels within your organization.

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