Microaggressions are small examples of harassment or discrimination that can happen in the workplace. These are generally focused on people who are already part of a marginalized community.
For example, a worker who is part of a minority group may feel marginalized at work already because they are the only worker who is part of that group. If the other workers are constantly making comments that are offensive or inappropriate, it creates a hostile work environment. Below are three examples of what microaggressions can look like.
1. Inappropriate jokes
In many cases, people will make a joke that is offensive. It could be a joke at the expense of that minority ethnic group, in the example above. When called out on it, they will insist that it was “just a joke” and that they weren’t trying to be offensive, but the result is the same.
2. Compliments that are actually insults
Another example is when someone gives a person a compliment that is actually an insult. For example, a white worker might tell a worker from a minority ethnic group that they are surprised by how well they speak English. That sounds like a complement of the English skills, but it is actually an insult, implying that it’s surprising that they can speak English at all.
3. Reinforcing stereotypes
Similarly, microaggressions will often just reinforce stereotypes. A worker who makes a comment about how “women are too emotional”, for instance, is committing a microaggression. They may genuinely believe that they are telling the truth, but what they are actually doing is reinforcing a negative stereotype about female workers.
Have you experienced discrimination and microaggressions on the job? Be sure you know about your legal options.