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What are microaggressions in the workplace?

Workplace harassment and discrimination can take many forms from the overt to the subtle. People are more likely to call out overt actions because it’s harder for anyone to dispute something blatant.

People may be less certain about reporting actions on the subtler end of the scale, or microaggressions as they are sometimes known. They may think people will tell them they are making a fuss over nothing and dismiss their claims. They might even question themselves, wondering if they are just too sensitive.

Microaggressions are not always intentional

Sometimes people know what they are saying or doing when they insult you. Perhaps they would like to say or do more, but they know they will get in trouble. Other times, their actions are not intentionally mean but portray their true bias toward you. For example, you notice they step out of the lift when you enter because they clearly have an issue being close to someone of your skin color. Or they tell you they will seat you next to the only other openly gay person in the office, “because you’ll have more in common.”

Microaggressions can soon create a hostile work environment. They can make going to work an unpleasant or even fearful experience for people. Not just the target of the actions or comments but those around them too.

If you are fed up with the constant microaggressions in your place of work, try reporting it to your employer. If they do not take you seriously or do enough to deal with the problem, consider learning more about the legal options available.