Microaggressions are small actions or comments that may seem harmless, but they can have a significant and lasting impact on employees in the workplace. They can be hurtful and damaging, even if the person communicating the microaggression does not intend to discriminate.
It’s important to recognize and address these common microaggressions to create a safe and inclusive workplace for all employees.
Forms of harmful comments
Sometimes, people don’t realize the impact of their words or actions. Harmful comments disguised as harmless jokes or attempts to connect with others can be a big deal. These seemingly innocent comments can create a toxic work environment that perpetuates discrimination and exclusion. Some examples of harmful comments that fall under the category of microaggressions are:
- “Where are you really from?”
- “You speak really good English.”
- “You must be good at math.”
- “Can you teach me how to use chopsticks?”
- “I didn’t realize you were Indian – you don’t look Indian.”
Employees must reflect on their words and actions to avoid perpetuating harmful stereotypes or biases. Otherwise, they may damage a person’s self-worth and create a toxic environment for the receiving party.
Impact of microaggressions on employees
Microaggressions are a part of daily life for people in marginalized groups, including their work lives. Unfortunately, others do not know how much damage they can do to their coworkers when they continue down this path. Those who are at the receiving end of microaggressions at work tend to experience:
- Feeling isolated or excluded from their coworkers
- Being afraid to speak up or share their opinions
- Feeling like they have to defend or explain themselves constantly
- Experiencing anxiety or stress related to work
Not only do they change their perspective about work, but subtle forms of racism are highly damaging to a person’s internal view of themselves, making their day-to-day work a struggle to return to.
People of color and other marginalized groups are often the targets of this type of harassment and discrimination. And they can make them feel like they don’t belong or are less important than others. Treating everyone with respect is basic human decency. If an employee is experiencing racial discrimination at work, they may escalate their concerns to their employer. However, if the case continues even after doing so, they may file a charge of discrimination.