In some regards, workplace discrimination and harassment have changed over the years. In the past, some overt actions — such as refusing to hire women or African American workers — were allowed and common. Today, these are clear violations of workers’ rights and companies know they cannot do this.
Unfortunately, changing what is legal doesn’t always change the way people feel or the way they act. They just do it differently now. One issue that has come up is just how common microaggressions are and how they can cause a worker to feel constantly harassed or discriminated against.
Microaggressions can create a hostile workplace environment
In general, microaggressions are just “minor” events that tend to take place consistently. It’s not as overt as telling someone they’re not welcome at the company, but it has the same effect. The microaggressions add up to create a hostile workplace where a worker feels like an outsider. Examples include:
- Making a joke about someone’s accent or the way they speak
- Telling someone that they break a stereotype, thereby reinforcing that stereotype
- Giving someone a backhanded compliment — for instance, saying that a minority employee is surprisingly well-read, implying that you assumed they wouldn’t be educated
- Talking about someone’s hair or dress, especially in reference to their cultural style or unique attributes
Essentially, all of these little things may not be direct insults, but they do work to create division between employees, and they can create a hostile workplace.
Has this happened to you?
If you have been victimized by microaggressions or any other type of workplace discrimination and/or racism, make sure that you are well aware of the legal options at your disposal. You do not deserve this treatment.