Be a Better Ally With These Clever Responses to Microaggressions

Each week, we share five simple actions to create a more inclusive workplace and be a better ally.

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Picture of an old typewriter and phrases typed on paper “What makes you say that? We don’t do that here. I don’t get it. Can you explain the joke to me? Wow, that was awkward.”

1. Memorize phrases to use when you witness microaggressions

Speaking up when witnessing a microaggression isn’t necessarily easy because of power dynamics. So we recommend you have a couple of stock phrases to pull out when you need them. Here are some ideas:

“What makes you say that?”

“Why do you think she’s the right person to do <some lower level or administrative task>?”

“We don’t do that here.”

“I don’t get it. Can you explain the joke to me?”

“Wow, that was awkward.”

Want to learn more about microaggressions in the workplace? Check out this recent research by SurveyMonkey.

2. Don’t put “preferably Caucasian” or specify gender in your job description

Really?

And speaking of hiring…

3. Use objective criteria to evaluate job candidates

Folks, let’s not hold women to a higher standard in the hiring process. Instead, use objective criteria, determined and agreed upon before the first candidate walks through the door, to evaluate everyone.

4. Embrace the singular “they”

Furthermore, people do still use “he” on occasion, which can perpetuate bias. For example, imagine attending a hiring committee meeting for a software engineer and hearing someone say, “When the candidate arrives, he should first meet with ___.”

Instead, why not use the singular “they?”

The grammatically minded among us might find this awkward initially, but over time it becomes more familiar and natural.

Want to read more about using gender neutral language in the workplace? Check out this article by Alli Smalley at Power To Fly.

5. Ask, “What two changes would make it easier for you to do a great job?”

He goes on to recommend asking for feedback regularly (and acting on it). One idea: in meetings, ask “What two changes would make it easier for you to do a great job?”

While his advice is applicable to all employees, why not start by asking people from underrepresented groups. And use their answers to identify some ways to be a better ally.

Being an ally is a journey. Want to join us?

Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies™ approach.

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Everyday actions to create inclusive, engaging workplaces. Together, we can — and will — make a difference with the Better Allies® approach.

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