Microaggressions are called such because they aren’t always obvious and can be committed in such a casual way, that they go unnoticed by many. In some cases, microaggressions can even be seen as ‘compliments’. But just because this behavior isn’t always in your face, that doesn’t mean microaggressions are harmless. Far from it.
The term microaggression is defined as “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group.”
Unfortunately, members of marginalized groups can and do face microaggressions in almost all facets of their daily life, but for some, microaggressions at work are the most egregious. Research shows that 36% of Americans have witnessed microaggressions at work, and 26% have experienced microaggressions at work.
While some people have noticed a downturn in microaggressive behavior as a result of switching to remote work, it’s still an issue that many employees have to deal with—virtually or in person. Let’s take a closer look at common microaggressions and what form they may take in an online work setting.
- Being addressed in an unprofessional way
- Phrases like “You’re very well-spoken” or “You’re so articulate”
- Being talked over
- Someone taking credit for your work/idea
- Being asked about your dating or personal life
- Comments (positive or negative) about your body/appearance
- Being asked about your qualifications
- Someone using a lower/less impressive title to introduce you
The problem is, microaggressions do still exist in the digital office. The switch to remote work comes with new challenges and many employees have found they need to set new boundaries with colleagues/supervisors when working from home. When those boundaries are crossed, or when in-person workplace etiquette gets thrown out the window, however, remote workers can be left feeling just as vulnerable as they did in the office.
Here are some examples of remote-work microaggressions:
- Commenting on your work-life balance—e.g. “Hey, will you be available this afternoon or are you going to be dealing with your kids?” or “I saw you logged off early yesterday, is everything okay?”
- Using informal language via email/texts
- Abusing your online availability by contacting you outside of your posted work hours
Another thing remote workers might want to consider when dealing with microaggressions is how supervisors view (and possibly undervalue) their contributions to the team. According to that same SHRM study, 70% of supervisors believe that remote workers are more easily replaceable than onsite workers, and 42% say they sometimes overlook/forget about remote workers when assigning tasks. These are examples of behaviors that have the potential to escalate behind microaggressions, and are something remote workers should be looking out for.
That said, if you’re someone who has been subjected to microaggressions at work, either online or in-person, or if you’ve witnessed a microaggression perpetrated against someone else, there are steps you can take.
If you are not directly involved in the conflict but you witness what you think might’ve been a microaggression, you’ll also want to refrain from responding in the moment—especially if you are not a member of the same marginalized group the victim is. Because microaggressions are often so subtle, it can be hard for people on the outside to know for sure that someone is being victimized.
Therefore, you should take time to reflect on what happened, speak to other trusted coworkers, and perhaps even consider asking the person themselves whether or not they would like you to get involved. Outside of directly referencing a specific interaction, you can also try to educate your colleagues on the ins and outs of inappropriate work behavior whenever an opportunity to do so arises.
If you feel like you’re being routinely victimized at work, that your colleagues or higher-ups do not respect you, or that your concerns/complaints are not being taken seriously, it may be time to look for a new job. At CyberCoders, we know that’s an intimidating prospect, and you might be thinking that the stress of searching for a new position outweighs the stress of staying in your current one.
Which is why we’re here to help. With our recruiting experts and unrivaled job-matching technology, we can alleviate much of the stress involved in finding a new position. We’ve got personalized search tools and salary-matching guides to ensure that you find exactly what you’re looking for.
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