How to Deal with Microaggressions at Work

How to Deal with Microaggressions at Work

Microaggressions at work come in different forms.

“You should smile more”.

“You are really smart despite not finishing college.”

“Good thing you do not have a husband to take care of!”

“You are too strict! That is why you are still single.”

“You speak English well for a Mexican.”

They may sound like innocent remarks about your colleagues’ personal lives but for them, these lines can come across as insults or insensitive comments. It is hard to deal with microaggressions at work. No one seems to mind giving these offensive remarks because they are often masked as jokes or a subtle form of provocation. If you react negatively, you will be labeled as too sensitive and short-tempered.

What is microaggression?

The term was first used by Dr. Chester M. Pierce, a psychiatrist, to describe the daily insults and discrimination toward African-Americans. Psychologists have since used this term to include rude behavior towards marginalized people.

Microaggressions are “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”. They are considered a form of discrimination against a person’s race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or age.

One sad truth about microaggression at work is the person who usually makes those comments may not realize that they are offensive and derogatory. For them, they are compliments. There is nothing to be angry about. 

How to deal with microaggressions at work?

Your workplace can sometimes be the breeding ground of discrimination. If tolerated and not addressed appropriately, it can create a toxic and unhealthy environment for many. There will be times when you just ignore people’s comments because you do not want to cause problems. But by not doing anything, you are somehow condoning microaggressions at work.

It is important that you know how to recognize when microaggression at work occurs. This is the first step that you need to learn.

1. Take a breather.

When colleagues throw insults at you, you do not have to reciprocate. You do not have to respond to their rude behavior especially if it is the first time they have done it. You can always excuse yourself and walk around to clear your mind. This reaction will also serve as a signal that you do not like what they have just said. You may ask your therapist near me about other ways to show disapproval without resorting to confrontations. 

2. Call out their behavior politely.

When colleagues constantly make fun of your race or culture, you know that they are not just joking around. When they always brag about how good it is to have a woman on the team because you are highly favored, it is not giving a compliment anymore. They want to intentionally insult and hurt you. Tell them right away that their remarks are discriminating and disrespectful. Give them an opportunity to apologize to you. You do not have to call them out in front of other colleagues. Arrange a date to discuss the matter.

3. Re-evaluate your workplace.

One reason that microaggressions happen at work is that the company does nothing to prevent them. If you observe that there are no changes even if you have already raised your concern, you may have to remove yourself from that toxic environment. It is easy to overlook things like this because you need the job but if it causes you more mental distress, you may have to consider seeing a therapist near me. Your workplace should contribute to your growth and success. It should never be a source of trauma and abuse.

4. Learn to empathize.

You may have not been a victim of any microaggressions at work but you witness this act every now and then. Do not just look and ignore the situation. Help out a colleague who has been mistreated. Sometimes, they need someone to give them the courage to speak up and put a stop to it. If you notice that they are having a hard time dealing with microaggressions at work, advise them to seek medical help and see a therapist near me. 

5. Inform your company’s Human Resource Officer.

You have to decide for yourself if you have to let the insults slide or respond to them right away. It will always be up to you. Whether you want to deal with it now or later, you have to raise this concern to your HR Officer. This way they will have an idea of what is going on among the employees.

Where to ask for help?

Microaggressions at work can be agonizing and depressing. It is not easy to work with people who like to insult and discriminate against others. Victims of such acts sometimes choose not to do anything and remain silent. They care more about not losing their jobs than dealing with rude people.

If nonstop microaggressions at work have been causing you mental stress and problems, you have to see a medical professional. Getting counseling and therapy sessions can be the answer to your struggles.

Mindshift Psychological Services offer counseling and therapy sessions for those who are dealing with discrimination and stereotyping at work. Visit our website to learn more about us. You may also contact us at (714)584-9700.