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The deceptive nature of subtle discrimination in the workplace

On Behalf of | Apr 14, 2023 | Workplace Discrimination

Discrimination in the workplace can take many forms, including overt acts of prejudice, such as name-calling or physical harassment. However, there is another form of discrimination that is equally damaging but often harder to detect: subtle discrimination. This type of discrimination involves subtle behaviors or attitudes that create a hostile work environment for certain employees or groups of employees.

Here are examples of subtle discrimination you might see in the workplace and what you can do about it.

Examples of subtle discrimination

Subtle discrimination can manifest in a variety of ways. For example, a manager may consistently overlook the contributions of a female employee or deny her opportunities for advancement. A coworker may make stereotypical jokes or comments that marginalize a colleague from a particular racial or ethnic group. A team leader may micromanage a disabled employee, making it difficult for that individual to perform to their full potential. These actions, while seemingly small, can significantly impact an employee’s morale and job performance.

What you can do about subtle discrimination

It can be challenging to address subtle discrimination in the workplace, but there are several steps you can take to protect the rights of yourself and those around you. Here are a few examples:

  • Educate yourself: Learn as much as possible about your company’s policies and procedures regarding discrimination, and familiarize yourself with the laws that protect you from discrimination in the workplace. This knowledge can help you recognize when subtle discrimination occurs and what steps you can take to address it.
  • Document incidents: Keep a record of any incidents of subtle discrimination you experience or witness in the workplace. This can include notes on conversations or interactions that made you feel uncomfortable or excluded. Having a record can be helpful if you decide to report the discrimination to your supervisor or HR department.
  • Speak up: If you feel comfortable, speak directly with the person engaging in subtle discrimination. Let them know how their behavior impacts you, and ask them to stop. Sometimes, they may not be aware that their behavior is offensive or hurtful, and a direct conversation can help them understand.
  • Report the behavior: If the behavior continues or if you don’t feel comfortable speaking with the person directly, report the discrimination to your supervisor or HR department. Be clear about what happened and how it made you feel. Provide any documentation you have, and ask for their help addressing the situation.

It can be challenging to deal with subtle discrimination alone. It is essential to seek support from colleagues or friends who can listen and provide advice. You can also seek help from employee resource groups or external organizations that assist employees who have experienced discrimination.

Subtle discrimination in the workplace is insidious and harmful. Still, you have options for protecting your rights and fighting against discrimination. By educating yourself, documenting incidents and speaking up, you can work to create a workplace that is inclusive and respectful of all employees.