You may have been subjected to or witnessed it: microaggressions. The frequent verbal and nonverbal behaviours that can be derogatory to the point of ostracisation.

Sarwat Tasneem

Sarwat Tasneem

These intentional and unintentional messages or actions, which are formed opinions of gender, race, sexual orientation, ableism or religion, have the ability to destroy the dignity and value of an individual or a marginalised group.

The findings from a recent survey on workplace interactions across the real estate industry have sparked concern and confusion. In a year of unlearning and learning, many expect personal growth to be at the forefront of organisational change, since we have all experienced the societal rollercoaster as a collective. The ‘silent ally’, or an expectation to contend, reduces the individual to feeling less psychologically safe. Microaggressions must be addressed; it is only once we live through the uncomfortable that we learn how to do better.

A microaggression can occur in nanoseconds to the point where the sheer surprise takes us into fight-or-flight mode and the moment has passed and the damage done. True allyship is action – it validates the experience witnessed.

Office meeting

Source: Shutterstock/ George Rudy

Before confronting a microaggression, one has to decipher what the goal is, as context and relationship are factors. Does it require a little education as it was an innocent lack of understanding? By not responding am I accepting a toxic culture? With good intentions comes reframing. It is important to be heard; the challenge is to do so without causing a defensive response, which ultimately disregards your right to be acknowledged.

Expectation of trust within a framework of systemic bias is contradictory. A culture of transparency requires commitment and development. Regularly exchange rich and robust thought, where all voices are valued. Privilege must be understood. Listening and learning truths before assuming an individual’s identity and character is a good start.

Sarwat Tasneem is the founder of 14 Consulting