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The term “unconscious bias” is a buzzword thrown every two seconds, especially during workplace training. Many have expressed their concerns with the phrase, as it arguably takes away the accountability of thinking and treating others a specific way.

As a young, confident Black woman, a microaggression I know too well is being described as intimidating. Coming back to unconscious bias, when someone refers to me as “intimidating,” who is held accountable, seeing as their bias is unconscious? This somewhat new term can be harmful, as it leaves plenty of room for microaggressions to develop and grow. It interests me how there seems to be more outrage about the lack of knowledge on the topic versus the long-term implications of the victim. There seems to be the need to host unconscious bias training, whilst there seems to be little support or guidance on how to navigate as minority in the workplace. The perpetrator seems to be rewarded for their poor conduct, whilst the victim has to awkwardly listen to open discussions about unconscious bias during training.

It takes one incident for things to change for someone that experiences microaggression in the workplace. Navigating the workplace with work colleagues who mistake your honest contribution to a project as aggression is problematic. The performance and participation of this individual is likely to decrease, as they become hypersensitive to the way that people react towards them. This in itself needs acknowledgement and support. Words by other colleagues can be often internalized by those that face microaggressions, making it difficult to be open in the workplace. The long-term effects arguably include, isolation, stress and burnout making it difficult to identify the direct links of microaggressions in the workplace. This behavior will inevitably have an impact on how others perceive this employee, making it then difficult to prove their innocence to negative prejudicial comments made about them.

Without the necessary action taken when microaggression openly takes place in the workplace, is the development of subcultures within a business. The term “unconscious bias” often protects those that feel they have done anything wrong by making negative prejudicial slights. Being a witness of how work colleagues downplay offensive made to diffuse the situation is harmful, as this leaves those discriminated against unheard — making it difficult to create a safe space to educate others. This can create the illusion to those impacted that they are overacting, making it difficult in the future to raise concerns over comments made. This vicious cycle does not end, as the retention of diverse talent will begin to fall making it tough for minorities working with no allies to create safe space amongst themselves.

Until businesses understand the knock-effects of microaggressions in the workplace, they will fail to create a space with tackles the issue head-on.

Unconscious bias can no longer be a term used to deflect accountability for ones actions. Firms must proactively educate employees, making it imperative that that there is a strong understanding of the meaning, implications and consequences of microaggressions. The support for those that experience this in the workplace is minimal, and it’s time the firms change their attitude towards this issue; making employees aware that there will be no tolerance for such behaviours.