Examples of microaggressions in California’s workplaces

Employees in California may experience small aggressions in the workplace and not realize it. Understanding common microaggressions helps bring about awareness.

Just because your California office does not have overt, undeniable forms of harassment or discrimination does not necessarily mean your workplace does not have a toxic atmosphere. On the contrary, there could exist microaggressions that do not seem harmful on the surface but are examples of unconscious bias regarding an employee’s gender or race. Learn examples of such microaggressions to protect your rights and cultivate a healthy workplace.

“You are a very articulate employee.”

When an employee says this to a person of color, thinking she or he is giving a compliment, the employee sends a silent message underneath the spoken message. The unspoken message is that the white employee did not expect a person of color to be able to communicate so eloquently. Such statements are comparable to feeling surprised when an experienced doctor properly dresses a wound.

“What she means to say is…”

Whenever a woman or person of color makes a statement, or starts to make a statement, and a male colleague interjects to essentially “translate” the statement, that is commonly referred to as “mansplaining.” This happens when a man attaches his own narrative or opinion, often unasked, to someone else’s statement and attempts to appear intellectually superior, even if he knows less about a specific subject than the original speaker. Such actions prove condescending and can make employees of color and women less willing to speak up.

“You do not look transgender.”

Telling an openly transgender employee she or he does not look transgender is often taken as a backhanded compliment. It is possible such a statement carries the assumption that a transgender person should look or act a certain way, much like all people of a certain race look or act a certain way. Such a statement is closely related to the “you are very articulate” microaggression touched on above.

“Where are you originally from?”

Asking a person of color where she or he is originally from can make that person feel alienated, especially if that person was born and raised in North America. It may come across as an innocent question, but the answer often does not make a difference whatsoever in a working relationship. In fact, it can act as the beginnings of a toxic work environment. The reason for this is the inquiry suggests the person’s appearance goes against what one thinks of as a stereotypical American.

Employees in California who experience microaggressions do not have to tolerate them. Sitting down and speaking with a lawyer can provide deeper insight and defuse a potentially toxic work situation.

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