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A Big Deal: Microaggressions in the Workplace

Akwi Anyangwe | Dec 11 | 3 min read

Updated: Dec 13

Pandemic restrictions are alleviated and more employees are returning to work in person, causing anxiety about discrimination for some and uneasiness about something called microaggressions for others.

Enhancing workplace diversity by eliminating microaggressions

Photo by Ernest & Young

People of different minority groups experience microaggressions in the workplace based off of predetermined biases from their counterparts.

Deanie Anyangwe is a 28 year old woman who holds the position of senior executive policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington, DC. She had barely gotten started in her position when she noticed how often she was interrupted midsentence.

"To this day, when I am in meetings where I hold the senior position, I still get interrupted more than my male coworkers," she said. "I think it has everything to do with me being a woman and that is definitly a microaggression."

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term microaggressions can be defined as a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group.

A report by McKinsey & Co. states that women are more than twice as likely as men to be interrupted in the workplace. In fact, 78% of women say they experience microaggressions at work.

Microaggressions are traditionally aimed at marginalized groups and can target many aspects of who they are. In a study conducted by Fortune Magazine, it was found that 68% of Americans say microaggressions in the workplace is a serious problem, adding that 26% of Americans have definitly experienced microaggressions at work.

Isaiah Downes, an LGBTQ+ warehouse worker at Amazon, experiences microaggressions oftentimes at his jobsite.

"I'll hear my coworkers yell 'this is so gay'-- referring to our horrible working conditions," he said. "It's hurtful that my sexuality is being used to describe something so deplorable."

LGBTQ+ are amongst the most marginalized group worldwide. In a McKinsey survey, nearly one-third of surveyed LGBTQ+ employees reported experiencing a microaggression at the workplace. Downes is one of them.

Downes expresses that the microaggressions he faces at his workplace make him feel very uncomfortable. He oftentimes finds himself isolated in an environment that is supposed to be inclusive and collaborative.

In an effort to provide a safe workplace for all, companies are pushing for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives within their workspaces to combat the spread of microaggressions, prejudice, and discrimination.

"It is something that needs to be brought to many people's attention," Ozimba Anyangwe, CEO of Alpha Home Health in Cleveland Ohio, said. "We need to make sure everyone feels comfortable and comes to work as their best selves."

Akwi Anyangwe | Microaggressions in the Workplace

By: Akwi Anyangwe

Contributions: Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Fortune Magazine, McKinsey & Co.

Photo: Ernest & Young

Video: Ronae Pointdexter, Akwi Anyangwe

Audio: Akwi Anyangwe


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