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