In some cases, incidents of harassment are very obvious. The person in question may not try to hide their behavior at all, and you know that they’re harassing you based on a protected class – like your gender or your race.
However, most cases are not this clear. Some of the behavior may be questionable. Is it harassment or not? You may be experiencing microaggressions. These are small instances that work together to create an overall hostile work environment, even though no single instance may seem like it is that important on its own.
How do microagressions happen?
Microaggressions are often just comments or actions that make it clear that the person being harassed is considered to be part of a different group than the person doing the harassing. An example of this could be if an office is getting a group picture taken, and all of the women are instructed to smile while the men are told to look serious and professional. This may not sound like discrimination as you pose for the photo, but it’s a clear indication that the women’s role in the office is thought of differently than the men’s role, and that is unfair to them in their careers.
Another example could be when someone says something that re-enforces a stereotype. For example, perhaps you are a member of a minority ethnic group, and someone commented you on your ability to speak clearly or read. They may even have sounded like they were complimenting you. However, what they’re really saying is they didn’t expect you to be educated based on your identity.
What options do you have?
If microaggressions like this have created a hostile workplace, it’s very important for employees to know exactly what steps they can take.