HR Alert: Microagressions… They’re Not So Micro!

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“That’s so gay.”

“So, who wears the pants?”

“I should just be a lesbian… that would make things easier.”

“I’ve always wanted a gay best friend!”

These are just a few of the microaggressions that members of the LGBTQ+ community deal with every day. Chances are, you’ve heard one if not all of these. Chances are even higher that you didn’t think anything of it. We’ve been conditioned to think of comments like these as normal. But although they may be small and fleeting (emphasis on micro), they could have a lasting impact on someone.

A microaggression is a subtle interaction or behavior that conveys bias, whether intentionally or unintentionally. It’s often a sign of internalized homophobia/transphobia. For example, someone may say “I don’t care if people are gay, but it doesn’t have to be their whole personality.” This translates to “I’m uncomfortable when gay people share about their personal lives or experiences.” It can even be something as simple as saying maternity or paternity leave as opposed to parental leave. Assuming that all couples are heteronormative is very harmful, especially in the workplace where you may not be aware of everyone’s home lives.

It can be emotionally draining to call out every microaggression you hear. It may begin to feel like homework to repeatedly explain why certain comments are offensive. But if you’re feeling the inclination to call someone out, you can try a simple “What do you mean by that?”

This diplomatically forces the other person to really think about what they said and – with any luck – to realize the impact it may have had.

While calling out one microaggression is certainly progress, it won’t eliminate the problem entirely. We must stop the issue from the root. Employees must hold themselves accountable for microaggressions and be aware of the biases they may have.

If you’re called out for a comment you made, please don’t resort to defensiveness. Rather, hear the other person out. It probably took them a lot of courage to speak up!

Inclusive workplaces is a responsibility of all team members. Human Resources professionals and C Suite executives lead the way. Importantly, allowing microagressions to permeate the workplace can lead to claims under the New York Human Rights Law among others. So beware and don’t overlook what might appear to be inconsequential conduct.

And don’t hesitate to call The Coppola Firm to discuss these and other strategies for eliminating microaggressions in the workplace. We are here to help.

Lisa Coppola

Written by Lisa Coppola

Founder of The Coppola Firm

Lisa A. Coppola, Esq. understands the challenges her clients face, whether they’re starting a new business, taking their existing operations in a new direction, or facing a claim or threat.

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