You've Been Called Out for a Microaggression. What Do You Do?

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Sarah Bierenbaum
Sarah Bierenbaum Member Posts: 7 Contributor
edited August 2023 in CS Conversations
This article shares some interesting insights and advice on what to do when you're called out on a microaggression (or maybe a not-so-micro aggression...).


Whether we intend to or not, I believe ALL of us make insensitive choices (or worse) from time to time. 

Share in the comments - when was the last time you made a mistake? Were you called out, or not? What did you do about it?

I'll start.

And here's the article:

You've Been Called Out for a Microaggression. What Do You Do?
Harvard Business Review remove preview
You've Been Called Out for a Microaggression. What Do You Do?
It was a throwaway comment, and you were unaware that it was demeaning. But now that a colleague has brought the slight to your attention, you realize what you said was offensive. As a person who wants to be a good ally to your colleagues of color and members of underrepresented groups, how do you apologize after you've committed a microaggression?
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Comments

  • Sarah Bierenbaum
    Sarah Bierenbaum Member Posts: 7 Contributor
    edited August 2020
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    About a year ago or so, while working in a CS leadership role, I made an insensitive comment on the company slack. Specifically, I made a comment in a conversation where several other people at the company made insensitive comments about unusual names. I was by far the most senior person participating in the conversation. I also didn't register the comment as insensitive until my boss (the COO) let me know some employees had complained about the conversation. 

    As soon as it was pointed out to me, I immediately saw how insensitive my comment came across, regardless of my intent. But I obviously couldn't take it back, nor could I erase the feelings experienced by the employees who read this comment, written by a member of the company leadership team. 


    The company had very clear and very public zero tolerance policies for inappropriate or insensitive communications like this.




    I worked with the leadership team, and we quickly came up with a several action steps:

    1) I left up my comment, and I added a thread (posted also to the channel) with an apology and a clear statement that I made a mistake and I hold myself to a higher standard as a leader. I also welcomed direct conversation with anyone who wanted to discuss further

    2) the COO directly offered the folks who complained an opportunity to speak to me directly, which they declined

    3) the CEO publicly addressed the inappropriate conversation in the next all hands meeting

    4) eventually the Head of People removed the comments altogether (I think after a month or so) but I believe kept a record of them somewhere


    I don't know if our response was perfect, but we did what we thought was the right thing in the given circumstances. I share this in the hopes that others who make similar mistakes can see a path to an apology and moving forward. It's not the end of the world, but it is important to do something and say something, placing as little burden as possible on the harmed parties.



    ------------------------------
    Sarah Bierenbaum
    Customer Success Executive & Consultant
    Brooklyn NY
    ------------------------------
    -------------------------------------------
    Original Message:
    Sent: 08-24-2020 22:06
    From: Sarah Bierenbaum
    Subject: You've Been Called Out for a Microaggression. What Do You Do?

    This article shares some interesting insights and advice on what to do when you're called out on a microaggression (or maybe a not-so-micro aggression...).

    Whether we intend to or not, I believe ALL of us make insensitive choices (or worse) from time to time. 

    Share in the comments - when was the last time you made a mistake? Were you called out, or not? What did you do about it?

    I'll start.

    And here's the article:

    https://hbr.org/2020/07/youve-been-called-out-for-a-microaggression-what-do-you-do?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter_daily&utm_campaign=dailyalert_activesubs&utm_content=signinnudge&deliveryName=DM89841





    ------------------------------
    Sarah Bierenbaum
    Customer Success Executive & Consultant
    Brooklyn NY
    ------------------------------
  • Brian Hartley
    Brian Hartley Member Posts: 184 Expert
    First Comment First Anniversary
    edited August 2020
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    This is something I have been trying to be more and more mindful of.   For me, lately, it is trying to be more cognizant of when I am speaking in group settings ensuring that all have a platform to speak and to be mindful of my own interruptions or attempt to control/dictate a conversation.  I haven't been explicitly called out but if I were I plan to listen, let my guard down and learn from the experience.  I have had females in my organization tell me about their experiences with others in the company - and for me it is learning for both myself and when to call it out.

    Sure it may be awkward but if I don't take the opportunity to learn from my mistake I will continue to be stuck in my ways.

    As an organization, within our own D&I committee we are trying to create our own micro-aggression lunch-and-learn to educate the entire company.  I honestly believe a lot of people don't know what it means entirely as it comes in so many shapes or forms.
  • Alex Farmer
    Alex Farmer Member Posts: 62 Expert
    First Anniversary Photogenic First Comment GGR Blogger 2021
    edited September 2020
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    Really insightful article, thanks for sharing