Microaggressions can be a form of harassment or an indication of discrimination on the job. These are small interactions, such as thinly veiled insults or backhanded compliments. They’re not as overt as direct discrimination, but they can be an indicator of the same mindset.
An example of this could be if you were born in the United States, but your parents are from a different country. If someone at work says that they are surprised that you speak English so well, they may see it as a compliment. But you can clearly see how offensive this is because they are assuming that the way that you look either means that you are uneducated or that people from your parents’ home country can’t speak English. Either way, this can be a sign that they are viewing you and treating you differently based on your racial background.
Do people know when they’re using microaggressions?
One of the most common defenses that people have when they are accused of this behavior is to say that they didn’t know they were doing anything wrong. And there certainly are cases where this is true.
But it’s important to remember that most people know exactly how these comments are going to come across. They are simply expressing the inherent biases that they have. They may even be doing it intentionally.
Times have changed over the years and they know that they can’t make direct comments about how someone is inferior due to their race, gender, age or other protected classes. So they will commit microaggressions as a way to express that they still feel that way, creating a hostile workplace.
You don’t deserve to be treated like this by your employer. If you have been, take the time to look into your legal options.