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How can I handle microaggressions?

Microaggressions are seemingly minor expressions of prejudicial sentiment that can have a major impact. Even if the perpetrator meant no harm the victim of the state could be left feeling uncomfortable, offended, and even unwelcome in the workplace. The American Psychological Association offers the following tips on how to address microaggressions in professional settings.

Self-care is crucial when subject to a microaggression. For instance, your self-esteem can be affected if you internalize the problematic behavior of others. In this case, seek out people who’ve had a similar experience to foster a sense of belonging. Also, make sure you’re caring for yourself physically, such as by eating right, getting enough sleep, and exercising. This will help you cope with the stress caused by prejudicial statements or actions.

Also, don’t be pressured into the role as an authority on your race or ethnicity. While well-meaning, those in a supervisory position may ask for your help in educating others in a bid to decrease microaggressions at a place of work. If you’re up for the task it’s fine to participate. But if you’re unwilling to assume the role, or you feel that the offer is not being made in good faith, feel free to refuse. It’s OK to say no and you shouldn’t feel pressured into something you don’t want to do. Remember, it’s the responsibility of your employer to create a welcoming and inclusive environment. 

If you witness a microaggression, speak up. Being an ally involves calling out others who make problematic statements, both to support the victim and to lend a bit of power to the claim. It’s unfortunate, but those within the majority group are considered a more reliable source and it’s common to blame the victim of the slight for being too sensitive. When speaking up, make sure you focus on what you saw and how it affected you. You don’t want to speak for the victim, as this may come across as dehumanizing or infantilizing. 

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