Succeeding While Black: 11 Tips for African Women to Combat Microaggression in the Workplace
As mentioned in the previous blog, microaggression against black women in the workplace is a very common occurrence. There are many African American women who are suffering in silence when they go to work due to the toxic nature of a microaggressive environment. They struggle with being offended against, are in fear of losing their job, lack of support, and feeling unappreciated for the hours of work that they put in with their employer. Frustrations and tension can run high in African American women who struggle to understand how to deal with microaggression, especially if others around them are ignorant to what’s going on or if they refuse to believe indiscretions are taking place. The following are tips and suggestions on how to deal with microaggression in the workplace.
1) Assess your goals for your job. The first step in combatting microaggression is to think about what your goals are for your current job. What position do you want in your job? How important is this job to you? Do you want to promote within the company? Determining your job’s current value to you will help you to decide how much to emotionally invest in your workplace atmosphere. If your job is short-term and of little significance, then it wouldn’t be to your advantage to emotionally invest your energy.
2) Let go of the idea of being liked or accepted. Understanding that everyone isn’t going to like or accept you for who you are is very freeing. You may be everyone’s cup of tea – and that’s okay. Recognize that the only person you need to be fully accepted by, is yourself. It is not necessary for you to have a seat at everyone’s table. Furthermore, while it is nice to be liked by your peers, popularity is not a necessity to do your job effectively in most cases.
3) Pick your battles carefully. Some things are worth your time and others are not. It goes back to the emotional investment mentioned in #1. All ignorance doesn’t deserve moments of your time. There are some things that are better for you to let go.
4) Be objective. It is easy to get fired up when people disrespect you. Who wouldn’t be upset over covert racism? However, as much as you can, try to remove your emotions out of what is happening (especially if you decide to proceed with the following steps), and just remember the facts of what happened. This will especially key if you escalate your issue to a higher authority. When you are objective, you are still able to describe how the incident(s) caused you to feel and impacted your life.
5) Document. Keep a record of indiscretions that are occurring. It helps to have documentation whenever possible. Documentation in the form of emails, voicemails, and other things that can be tracked can provide evidence of microaggression.
6) Higher education and more job experience. Having both traits go a long way. Education can never be taken away from you. Your experience is unique and adds to your perspective and your ability to do your job. Higher education and training can be difficult to dispute. Be confident about both qualities as you have worked hard, and there are times when your voice needs to be heard. Remind those that question your abilities of what you bring to the table.
7) Check-in with your supervisor or manager regularly. It helps to keep a running dialogue with your manager or supervisor about your work performance. Even with microaggressive leadership, ongoing meetings can be helpful and provide information about their attitude and their perception of your work quality and ethic. If the information provided is contradictory, it still provides useful information about leadership, your job role, and the next steps you should take with respect to your role within the company. It can be helpful to take notes during the meeting and email your notes afterwards to those who were present.
8) Connect with like-minded peers. Connecting with peers who are supportive and who have witnessed the microaggressions can help to alleviate stress. If you have peers that are trustworthy, utilize them to discuss the issue, and problem-solve how the issue can be addressed. There is strength in numbers.
9) Invest in mentorship or therapy. It is always helpful to have an objective support system. This can be provided in the form of a mentor or therapy. They provide support, feedback, suggestions, and help you with reality-testing and gauging the microaggressions. It is importance to find someone who is culturally sensitive to issues such as microaggressions and other common concerns of African American women.
10) De-stress. It is important to have ways in which you can decrease your stress both in/outside of your work. Finding ways to manage your stress at work can help to ease the tension so that you can get through the workday. Some examples of managing stress at work can include taking short-breaks, positive self-affirmations, talking to a peer, or listening to music. It’s also helpful to remember that you have an identity outside of work. Be sure to plan activities that you will look forward when you are done with work.
11) Talk to the person who is microaggressive. Explore this option only if you feel safe to do so. Sometimes, people can truly say things without truly meaning to be offensive or harmful to you. It may be an issue that can be rectified by discussing it with the person who was offensive.
12) Escalate your issue. If you are invested in your job, or you feel that the microaggressions which are committed against you have caused you a considerable amount of harm, then you should research and potentially escalate the issue to upper level management. When attempting to resolve the issue, information should be presented, and reported according to the appropriate person according to the chain of command. It’s also helpful to document dates, times, person’s you spoke with, the type of communication, and what was communicated, and why you reported the issue to the person that you reported it to. Should microaggression continue, or you are retaliated against, you may want to report the issue to an outside person, such as the governing body of your employer, corporate office, office of employment or labor board, or an attorney.
Disclaimer: This content was written for educational purposes only and is not meant to be definitive or utilized in place of therapy with a licensed professional. Each situation is unique and may not be applicable to every reader. Please use your discretion when using tips and suggestions in this article. This was written by Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD, LPCC; and should not be reproduced without consent of the writer.
© 2019 Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD, LPCC
Working While Black – 9 Signs of Microaggression in the Workplace against African American Women
A common stressor that occurs among African American women in a workplace is microaggression. Microaggression is defined as a subtle statement, action, or incident which discriminates and is prejudicial against a racial or ethnic minority and is often utilized to make people of color feel inferior. It is often overlooked or dismissed by White counterparts, because the aggression is not always obvious nor is it obvious how it causes the person who is being aggressed against feel. Here are some signs that you are experiencing microaggression on your job.
1) It doesn’t feel good going to work. Your body is typically going to alert you in several different ways when something or someone isn’t good to or for you mentally, spiritually, psychologically, or physically. The way in which this shows up with respect to microaggression is that you dread going to work, and the feeling intensifies over time. This may show up in ways which you dismiss or minimize initially. Some signs to look for are inability or reluctance to get out of bed, anxiety, depression, or feeling stressed or lack of motivation when thinking about your job, avoidance of certain people and situations. This is your body’s attempt to alert you that you don’t feel as though work is a safe space.
2) African American women are referred to as aggressive or hostile when expressing job concerns that goes against the toxic workplace mentality or management. African American women who advocate and express concerns are often referred to as aggressive or hostile – which is a condescending way to describe someone opinion that you may not agree with. It is also utilized as a control tactic to try and demonize someone with good intentions and has a desire to bring about positive change in the workplace. This tactic is utilized to make someone become more submissive by suggesting that they are a bad person or that they are difficult to be around. This also encourages triangulation, where more than 1 person is encouraged to align with non-Black counterparts against the woman of color. This tactic is an attempt to make a black woman feel inferior, that her opinion/voice doesn’t matter, disliked, or as though her job may be in jeopardy for expressing a valid or different opinion or concern.
3) White counterparts reword your ideas and opinions and are praised and given credit for originality. It can be a magical occurrence really – your idea or opinion that you expressed, which wasn’t well received by management or no one cared to acknowledge, is expressed by a White colleague who is treated as though their train of thought is new and genius. Absolutely nothing changed was changed from the idea that you came up with except for the race of the next person who re-stated it. When trying to reclaim credit for your idea, it falls on deaf ears. It can be an additional shock, when the person who restated your idea or point is actually aggressive, yet their aggressiveness is not addressed.
4) Feeling invisible. In the predominantly White workspace, it can seem as though you don’t even exist when you aren’t acknowledged. When an African American woman speaks to a White co-worker, and doesn’t get a response (e.g. saying good morning, and not receiving any acknowledgment back). What’s more, is the co-worker will speak to others in the room with no issue. n that occurs when you speaking to White counterparts where it seems as though you are non-existent. Another example of African American women being ignored on the job, is when their emails and other communications are consistently ignored by management.
5) Guardedness or the perception that you are being scrutinized more. Often African American women feel the need to be guarded and hold their work to a higher standard. There is often the perception that your work is being scrutinized more or the threshold is lower for job termination. Some women feel that their work is also reviewed closer or more scrutinized than their counterparts. This perception comes from comments, warnings, emails, and documents advising that their work needs to be reviewed or modified in some way. Another form of microaggression, is when management may go to another non-Black and requests for them to give feedback about the African American woman’s work performance or behavior. This can also be viewed as triangulation. Because there is a concern about excessive scrutiny, African American women often overcompensate by doing extra work.
6) There is refusal to address you by your title, role, or work role given is often inappropriate. Another form of microaggression occurs when non-African American coworkers or managers refuse to address African American women who have a higher degree, such as PhD or MD, by their title instead referring to them as Ms. By refusing to call an African American woman by her title, it considered disrespectful and it is a power and control tactic, designed to make them feel inferior or level the dynamics to make the non-African American co-worker feel equal. Still other Black women experience being assigned inferior work roles that allow them to maximize their potential. Thus African American women are passed over for leadership opportunities, and higher paying jobs.
7) Inappropriate comments made about hair, attire, names, mannerisms African American women among colleagues. African American culture is one where in which the public is scrutinizing and tries to conform to White standards of culture. There are still students being expelled from schools for wearing their hair in locks, and there were also recent news reports of teachers cutting off a student’s braids. It is not uncommon for African American women’s hair, names, speech, and style of dress to be discussed in a condescending manner among work peers. Questions asked about their differences can also be shameful in nature. Examples of insensitive comments about African American women’s hair include: “is your real,” “can I touch your hair,” “how much does it cost to do your hair?”
8) Cultural differences are seldom addressed. There is education on cultural sensitivity of marginalized groups in most workplaces. However, in those discussions of cultural sensitivity or competence as it is frequently referred to – African American women are infrequently referenced in groups in which people need to be more sensitive or appropriate to.
9) Little support is offered when there is racial disparity or discrimination experienced on the job. When the ideas of racial differences or aggression is brought up by those who have experienced it, experiences are dismissed, or no one wants to discuss those experiences for fear that there is too much controversy around racial matters.
Despite African American women experiencing microaggression on the job, they are still very resilient. It’s unfortunate that microaggression is something that is still an issue of discomfort for people of color, however the more that we start safe conversations around the issue, the more we can address it.
Disclaimer: This blog was written for educational purposes only and is not meant to be definitive or utilized in place of therapy with a licensed professional. This blog was written by Dr. Natalie Jones, and cannot be reproduced without consent of the writer.
© 2019 Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD, LPCC
This blog summarizes quick tips and suggestions to help those that are currently no-contact or limited in their relationship with a narcissistic mother, cope with Mother’s Day.
Deadly Killer of Relationships: The Inability to Ask Your Partner Questions
When you are in a relationship, communication is essential. Part of learning about your partner is being able to talk to them about likes/dislikes, past relationship history, goals, and problems. This is part of building an emotionally and psychologically healthy relationship. Asking your partner questions helps you get to know your partner, establish trust, boundaries, intimacy; as well as learn about your partner’s communication style.
There are quite a few people who have a difficult time asking partners questions. Some believe “ignorance is bliss.” The inability to or refusal to ask your partner questions is a red flag. The red flag indicates overarching themes: 1) that you don’t know your partner, and your partner doesn’t know you, 2) abuse is involved, and 3) one or both partners have difficulty dealing with reality. Here are some problems that are symptomatic of the inability to ask our partners questions in the relationship.
1) You don’t know the person you are in relationship with: Part of getting to know a person is spending time with them and getting to know them by asking questions. If you aren’t asking them questions, that means that you don’t know that person, which means that you are in a relationship with a stranger. Being in a relationship with a stranger, is taking a huge risk because that means that you don’t really know anything about them beyond superficial information.
2) Trust: Trust is another piece of foundation of the relationship which is also acquired by couple getting to know each other. When you trust someone completely, you are comfortable with sharing your most vulnerable secrets with that person and vice versa. Not being able to discuss vulnerabilities will cause you to doubt whether your partner is being truthful and loyal.
3) Inability to problem-solve: Part of discussing of learning how to address issues that arise in the relationship is being able to ask your partner questions about what went wrong, and how they would like to problem-solve the issue. Inability to address the issues that arise in relationships, causes them to increase exponentially. Avoidance or refusal to answer questions about problems that arise in the relationship, will ultimately lead to the destruction of the relationship.
4) Walking on eggshells: Inability to talk to our partner often causes feelings of distress. We become conditioned to feel as though “I can’t talk to my partner, or they will leave.” Thus a fear of rejection or failure develops. We think that our partner will leave us if we pose questions or indicate that there are problems. Thus, we sit silently, and agreeably as though things are okay, trying not to rock the boat.
5) Abuse: Inability to ask questions in the relationship can be an indicator that we are not safe or abuse will occur if we try to do so. If our partners do not allow us to ask questions or become abusive when we try to inquire or problem-solve; this is psychological abuse. Inability to discuss problems because our partner has become volatile emotionally, physically, or verbally is a safety and security issue.
6) Emotional Instability: There are times when we find it difficult to explore issues or problems with our partners because we don’t know how to manage emotions. We could be afraid of our own or our partners, or a combination of both. Thus, we become fixated on avoiding emotions and discussions in our relationships because we aren’t sure how to handle them or what to do with them. For some, it’s easier to avoid, than to feel like we failed.
7) Living in a fantasy: There are a lot of people who are focused on an end goal in a relationship, such as getting married, having children, or living happily ever after – or something along those lines. However, sometimes we get so caught up in what we want that we forget about the steps that are necessary to get there. For some, they believe if our relationship sounds, feels, or looks good – even if it’s only for the moment, then nothing else matters. They forget that real relationships take work. It’s just like when we were in grade school, and our teacher wanted to see how we solved our math problem, as opposed to just seeing the answer. We need to do all the work to effectively solve the problem was effectively addressed.
In a truly healthy relationship, you should be able to ask your partner questions and problem-solve. If this is an area with which you struggle, please contact me today to see how I can help you get back on track in your relationships.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog was written by Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD, LPCC. The content of this blog is written for educational purposes, and should not be substituted for treatment with a licensed mental health professional. If you would like more information on how to become more impowered and learning how to speak up for yourself, email me at email@example.com to book a consultation for a therapy session.
Dear Valentine’s Day: I Hate You! How to Get Through Valentine’s Day As A Single Person
You know the feeling…. When you walk in the store and you see the red heart shaped boxes of candy, the fluffy teddy bears, the roses, and the cards. It may as well be in big bold letters – it’s Valentine’s Day! Everyone appears to be happy with their significant other and has plans for a romantic evening or weekend getaway. Everyone is happy, smiling, and in love. Everyone, but you. You want to hide out in your house, and maybe you even have the evil thought of kicking the fluffy white teddy bear in Walgreens. All of these things are a reminder that you are single on Valentine’s Day. The last thing you want to see is a happy smiling couple, because it’s a reminder that they are something that you are not – attached, booed up, a couple, in love, married, or maybe even happy. You have never even had a Valentine. While your initial impression of Valentine’s Day is one of misery and avoidance, there several things that you can do which will make February 14 more enjoyable, and help you get through Valentine’s Day while being single.
1. Show yourself some love. The best way that we can show up and be present on days like Valentine’s Day is to show ourselves some love. You are a worthy, lovable, and fantastic person. Who knows that better than you? Pampering and complimenting yourself should be a ritual that you engage in regularly. Engaging in hobbies that you love, doing something adventurous that you haven’t tried before, or going out with friends are just a few things that you can do to indulge yourself. If you want to kick things up a notch, go ahead and get yourself some candy and that fluffy teddy bear from Walgreen’s!
2. Show love to others in your life. Remember that even if you don’t have that special one, there are other people in your life that you can show a little love to in your life. Bringing your coworkers homemade cupcakes with fun little Valentine’s Day cards or going out for a fun lunch with your girlfriends are some ideas to show other’s in your life some appreciation.
3. Show gratitude for things that you do have. Showing gratitude is a great practice to engage in daily. Being appreciative for people and things in your life is a wonderful way to focus on the positive. You are less likely to focus on things that you don’t have if you regularly engage in focusing on the positive in your life.
4. Observe couples that are in love. It may be challenging to observe a happy couple, especially if you just got out of a relationship, or if you just find it difficult to be around happy loving couples. However, there is something to be learned from observing from watching couples that are happy and in love; especially if that’s what you want in your life. Take notice of how happy couples are talking to each other, touching each other, and interacting with each other. Make mental and physical notes of their interactions, the vibes that they give off, and how they respond to each other’s cues. Thus, when you find that special someone, you can make sure to incorporate these special touches in your life.
5. Reflect. Think about what love means to you. Do you have a clear understanding of what love is? It is such a small word with a big meaning. So many people use the word, but don’t have a clear understanding of what it means to them. Engage in thought on a deeper level and explore with yourself whether or not your ideas of love are present in your relationships, including the one that you have with yourself. If love is lacking, then I would encourage you to seek the support of a professional that can help you to explore and rediscover love.
While these tips are not meant to be all inclusive, they are a great start to help you learn to enjoy all days – not just commercialized holidays like Valentine’s Day. If you need additional help and support rediscovering your inner happiness so that you can find love, please contact me to see how I can help.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not a diagnostic tool, nor is it meant to be used in place of treatment with a licensed clinician. This blog is for educational and informational purposes. If you are interested in learning how to cope with feeling a lack of love or dissatisfaction in your relationships, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a consultation for counseling services.
The contents of this blog post are owned by Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD, LPCC. Content from this post cannot be copied or reproduced without written consent from the author. Please click the social share buttons to share the blog post.
© 2017 Dr. Natalie Jones, PsyD, LPCC
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