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Don’t Let Microaggressions Slide

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Microaggressions — insensitive statements, questions, or assumptions aimed at traditionally marginalized identity groups — are not only harmful to the person on the receiving end of them but also to a team’s culture. If you see a microaggression take place at work, how should you respond? Start by asking yourself: What’s the right moment to say something — if at all? Consider the environment and be thoughtful about how to create a safe space for the conversation. Think about whether the conversation is best had in the moment (possibly in front of other people) or one-on-one. And if you do decide to confront someone, try to “call them in” by engaging in an honest, authentic dialogue rather than “calling them out.” Next, consider your relationship with the person who has made the transgression. If you know them well, you may be able to simply say, “Hey, you made a comment earlier that did not sit well with me.” However, if you do not have a personal relationship with the colleague, consider what you know about their personality (do they tend to be combative?) and history with uncomfortable conversations (are they generally approachable?). You may also need to bring in other colleagues they are closer with to help facilitate the conversation. Finally, be honest about your level of familiarity with the subject at hand. For example, maybe you recognize that a comment is a racial microaggression, but you don’t know the history or full implications of it. In that case, it’s OK to talk to the person and express your concern, but recognize you’re not an authority on the topic, and consider learning more first or talking to someone who has more familiarity with the topic.

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