Putting out the flames of subtle jabs and misconceptions in the ED.
Unfortunately, microaggressions have all either had it happen to us or seen it happen to someone else. Sometimes it’s very obvious and other times extremely subtle, but these small acts called microaggressions can really tear our coworkers and us down over time.
At a time where we are all at a boiling point, this is something that we each can easily work on. Microaggressions can be broken down into three groups:
- Micro-insults: Behavioral or verbal remarks that are rude or culturally insensitive to a person’s identity or heritage.
Ex: A Latino woman walks into work in a beautiful bright colored dress and her coworker says, “Wow! That dress sure is Mexican.”
- Micro-invalidations: Behavioral or verbal remarks that negate another person’s psychological feelings or thoughts, or that question the reality of another person.
Ex: You’re sitting in a meeting and you bring to your coworkers’ attention that the plan the group has drawn up is not culturally inclusive. One of your coworkers tells you that you are too emotional and that you should stop over thinking it.
- Micro-assaults: Conscious, explicit, derogatory characterizations or name-calling. These are focused attacks that are a little more obvious.
Ex: Your coworker refuses to work with you because you are of a different cultural background.
What do we do when this happens to us or those around us?
- Feel empowered and empower others: The only way for the aggressor to know that their behavior will not be tolerated is to bring it to their attention. While it may be difficult to do this in a calm, professional manner, the message is more likely to be received in a positive way if it is delivered appropriately, than if it is delivered from a place of anger.
- Approach the situation with an open-ended question: What did you mean by that comment? Can you explain further what you mean by that? When you say “X,” it makes me feel “Y.”
- Change the norms: Making the assumption that a woman is going to quit her job after having children is considered a microaggression. This is still fairly common in medicine and it is the responsibility of our generation of physicians to change the norm. The more we talk about it, the more it will be widely accepted that child care is a gender-neutral job. We need to change the norm that women are passed over for promotions, relegated to mundane tasks and left out of certain conversations when they become pregnant or after they return from maternity leave. Additionally, we need to keep in mind that assuming a woman wants to have children in the first place can be considered a microaggression because not all women want to have children.
- Use proper titles in proper settings: While in a more casual setting you may refer to someone by their first name, be sure to use proper titles when appropriate. If you are introducing a group of speakers, be sure to introduce everyone in the same way. If you use titles for one person, use titles for everyone.
- Continue to build awareness: If you see something, say something. If you do or say something that might be considered a microaggression, own it and apologize for it.
“You do the best you can with what you know, and then when you know better, you do better.”
For more on microaggressions, visit The EM Over Easy website: https://emovereasy.com/2020/05/18/episode-90-microagressions/