Do’s and Don’ts for Handling Micro-aggressions with Co-workers

Do’s and Don’ts for Handling Micro-aggressions with Co-workers

By: Ray Ball

Micro-aggressions – subtle, unintentional acts of discrimination towards an ethnic minority or group – are all around us, especially in the workplace. They may not come from a place of outright hate, but they instances like this can make you hit that side eye, scrunch your face or shake your head ... and most importantly, bite your tongue in order to keep calm on the job! As a result, it’s time we set a few guidelines – the do’s and don’ts if you will – to help ease the tensions and discuss these situations with your co-workers.

How many times has someone just reached out and touched your hair? One time when I was out with friends, a young woman turned around said, “I love your hair,” then immediately grabbed my bun. And this wasn’t even the first time it’s happened to me! Talk about personal space being violated.

Do: Ask first! You can touch my hair, but ask and wait for my response. If you want to ask a question about my hair and its maintenance, it is important to come from a place of genuine interest.

Don’t: Just reach out and touch my hair! Just like the rest of my body, this is my personal space, and it deserves your respect.

My culture is not your joke! Here’s a real example of using black culture as a joke that I experienced in the workplace:

Co-worker: “Wait one cotton-picking minute!”

Other co-worker: (Laughs) “That’s such a funny saying, I wonder where it came from?”
Me: (Blank stare) “Well who picked cotton for 500 years?”

Co-worker: “Way to ruin the joke!”

Me: “I forgot slavery was a joke …”

Take a minute to consider where the joke comes from, or why you think it’s funny. Think before you speak and always be culturally aware of your colleagues.

Don’t: Use the excuse “It’s just a joke” or “No one’s ever been offended before.” We’re all adults, so we should all know right from wrong.

“I’m not racist. I have black friends!”

Having black colleagues that you hang out with sometimes doesn’t make it OK to speak or act in a bigoted way.

Do: Learn from your past mistakes and realize that your actions speak louder than words. Better yet – join a march, donate to the United Negro College Fund or volunteer in underserved communities.

Don’t: Just talk about it. Be about it!

By supporting ourselves with the tools to educate and empower our co-workers who don’t understand, we can strive toward creating a more equal playing field for all of us! Did we miss any important talking points? Share your tips in the comments below.

Complete your personal information

Please fill in the information marked with an asterisk to proceed; if you want to get tailored offers and content, don't forget to fill in the optional fields.




I don't think the Black women who have dealt with this/reading this are the right audience for this article...

  • Report it



Great idea

  • Report it