Washington, DC

Stop mispronouncing your coworkers name, correct microaggressions at work

Kaleah Mcilwain

Microaggressions take place whether you work in person or virtually. They are a form of discrimination that occurs when someone's comment or action expresses prejudice toward a marginalized group.

Due to the labeling of microaggressions, "micro" meaning small, they can be hard to detect if you do not know what you are looking for. It is for this reason that many microaggressions in the workplace go unchecked and therefore continue to happen, even in the virtual workplace. Whether it is in Zoom meetings, one on ones, or Slack, microaggressions can impact a person's ability to do their job and can lead to overall unhappiness.

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Young people talk about what they mean by terms like micro-aggression, cultural appropriation, etc., in Washington, DC.(Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Research on microaggressions reveal that they can take a tremendous psychological and physical toll on marginalized group members according to Dr. Derald Wing Sue, a professor of psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Common workplace microaggressions

Giving someone a nickname that is easier to pronounce

Refusing to use a person's given name by asking to call them something else or shortening their name highlights that you see them as different and won't expend the energy to learn how to pronounce their name.

Research has proven that when a person of color name is mispronounced it causes feelings of alienation and anxiety. Getting someone's name correct is a simple sign of respect. Instead of assuming you know how to pronounce someone's name, ask them how it is pronounced.

Accusing someone of getting angry

Referred to as tone policing, this most often is directed at people of color who are often accused of being angry or overly animated during discussions. What people may not realize is that this is a form of implicit racism and signifies that a person does not deserve to be heard.

Instead of assuming someone is angry, understand that they are simply expressing a point that they are passionate about and have the right to do so with authentic emotions.

Thinking you are giving someone a compliment when you say they are well-spoken

This is a microaggression that some people think is complementary and therefore do not see the harm in saying it. In reality it is very condescending to say this because it implies you are shocked because the person shouldn't have been capable of being well-spoken.

A better compliment is to say you learned a lot from what your coworker had to say or you thought they had a great presentation.

Assuming someone is not from the same place as you

Asking someone, "where are you really from?" immediately has an "othering" effect. It shows that you do not think someone who looks like them can be from the same place that you are.

Being curious about where someone is from is not bad, but the way the question is worded and the tone in which it is said does signify to the person you are asking whether you are genuinely curious or implying they are not the same as you.

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Journalist with a background reporting on local communities, now living in and reporting on the Baltimore area. Find me on twitter!

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