What to do if you experience or witness a microaggression

Our new Call Out Microaggressions campaign provides advice about how best to respond if you experience them in your workplace or place of education.

Campaign throws light on dealing with microaggressions

Witnessing a microaggression

Call out microaggressions. Tell the person why their behaviour was not acceptable. This takes a lot of courage and may be especially daunting if the perpetrator is in a position of power, such as a lecturer or manager. Consider how you can create a safe space to do this and ask for support if you need it. For instance, is the conversation best in a group setting or one to one?   

It can be difficult to speak up on behalf of yourself or someone else. The best opportunities for change can come when someone is open to receiving feedback about the impact of their actions. It is important to be firm and hold the person accountable, but the conversation may be more successful if approached with compassion and respect.

Microaggression dismissed as humour

Microaggressions can wrongly be seen as humour and banter. Attacks that are not quite so openly expressed or clear are passed off as ‘funny jokes’. You can ask if there are any relevant codes of conduct or behaviour policies such as an equality policy in place that should already address this and can suggest new policies, amendments and education.

Speaking to your CSP steward or colleague for support

Your CSP steward, personal tutor or other trusted member of staff should be your first point of contact when discussing workplace issues including microaggressions. If you are the person experiencing microaggressions, they can offer guidance to help you to address this and put mechanisms in place to support you at work, on placement or on campus.   

If you are not experiencing microaggressions yourself but recognise that there is a culture of this type of behaviour, you can speak to your steward, freedom to speak up guardian, programme staff, student wellbeing service or students’ union representative about how to address this. 

Knowing your rights

Your workplace or place of education should have policies and protocols to protect staff, students and patients from discrimination. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers should provide systems of work and a working environment which are, as far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health. Where a party is experiencing discrimination, the manager or other senior member of staff should follow the relevant policies to address this. If these policies are not implemented properly, you must speak to your workplace steward who can work with your manager, HR and relevant staff networks. 

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