Why there needs to be training about microaggressions
Discrimination can appear in many different forms, in and out of the workplace, and sometimes it is more obvious than others. Perhaps it’s discovering a male coworker is on a higher salary for the same role or refusing to hire a transgender person. But at times, discrimination can be quietly subversive too, such as snide passing comments.
Some employees are subject to put-downs and insults every day, and these are known as microaggressions. Typically, these acts are concerning a person’s race, gender, disability, or sexual orientation.
While the culprits see these matters as minor, they can significantly undermine a person’s confidence, wellbeing, confidence, performance and engagement with their work.
The term ‘microaggression’ was coined in the 1970s by a Professor Chester M Pierce, a psychologist at Harvard University to describe the insults experienced by African-Americans, but it now encompasses sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other discrimination.
Microaggressions are sadly quite common in the workplace, for example, according to a report from LearnIn.org, ‘Women in the Workplace’, 73 per cent of women experience microaggressions every day.
Women who are lesbian, bisexual, disabled, or BAME are much more likely to experience slights and comments at work. Some studies have shown that many women of colour, in particular black women, have experienced bias about the style of their hair.
“How you’re treated in the room, that makes the biggest difference. Those microaggressions of not being asked a question, or having people talk over you, or when no one solicits your opinion. They add up,” is an example of what one woman told the LearnIn.org survey.
One black, lesbian woman added: “At work, I’m under a microscope. I feel an immense pressure to perform.”
Even if the comments are not intended to be malicious, they can cause a lot of damage. They lead to people feeling like outsiders and will detrimentally affect their self-esteem. This causes alienation and anxiety, affecting a person’s engagement with their work, which in the long term can affect their career development.
All too often, the blame for the microaggressions can be thrown back at the victim, saying they’re too sensitive, a ‘snowflake’, or it’s just ‘banter’.
We can tackle this problem in the workplace by offering training about microaggressions for all employees, as well as creating an open, positive environment where employees can talk about their experiences/
Sheffield University rolled out training for students to highlight examples of microaggressions. It wanted to challenge the ‘subtle but offensive’ comments that can be directed at BAME students, such as ‘where are you originally from’.
Training can make more employees aware of their unconscious bias, and such have been in denial that such things as microaggressions exist, turning to victim-blaming instead of looking at themselves.
With the Black Lives Movement in the news, people are much more aware of the issues that BAME people have to endure, but it has also created an increase in microaggressions, and this should be challenged and made unwelcome in the workplace.
If you are looking for training on avoiding and dealing with race discrimination, contact our team today.