Subtle Acts of Exclusion | Tiffany Jana

Summary of: Subtle Acts of Exclusion: How to Understand, Identify, and Stop Microaggressions
By: Tiffany Jana


Welcome to the world of Subtle Acts of Exclusion (SAEs), where unconscious biases and often unintentional actions contribute to complex issues surrounding discrimination and exclusion. In this summary of Tiffany Jana’s book, you can expect to learn how to identify, understand, and address these SAEs in both personal and professional settings. Dive into the challenges of dealing with microaggressions and uncover the importance of inclusive corporate culture in promoting collaboration and talent retention. Discover the roles of initiators, subjects, and allies in combating SAEs, and explore tips on fostering empathy, self-awareness, and accountability to build a more equitable society.

Understanding Acts of Exclusion

Exclusion is often rooted in ignorance or unconscious bias. The initiator of an act of exclusion may not be aware of the harm caused, but inclusion is crucial for a productive and healthy workplace. Microaggressions, often overlooked, have a massive impact and can make an individual feel invisible or excluded. Inclusive corporate cultures call for allies to speak up for the target of bias and encourage initiators to learn and do better. An individual who understands and accepts their transgression without being defensive is more likely to improve. Inclusion creates a more collaborative environment and increases job satisfaction, reducing the risk of employees leaving. People often misunderstand microaggressions, assuming the intent behind the words is more critical than the impact of them. A possibly well-intentioned comment can be hurtful and imply someone is abnormal or different from the in-group. Overall, understanding and addressing acts of exclusion is crucial for a healthy corporate culture.

Becoming an Ally

Becoming an ally may require some effort on your part, but it is a small price to pay compared to the negative impact of constantly being excluded by SAE. You can help tackle such behavior by gently and politely making the initiator aware of the unintended slight and why it matters. Follow up later with the initiator to minimize any adverse effect of speaking up about his or her actions. If the subject was present, let that person know you’re available to listen if necessary. Acknowledging the subject and the incident is crucial. Avoiding the topic can cause more pain.

Addressing Subtle Acts of Exclusion

In order to create a more inclusive workplace, team members can agree on a signal to pause and discuss a misstep. Individuals should acknowledge and speak up when they witness a subtle act of exclusion (SAE), while also keeping in mind that everyone has unconscious biases. If an SAE does occur, the offender should be invited to participate in an open conversation focused on learning and inclusion. It is not the responsibility of the individual who experienced the SAE to teach others, but if they choose to enlighten someone it should be considered a gift and act of trust. To address the SAE, explain what part of the behavior or statement made you uncomfortable, and why it was problematic. Expect the offender to make an effort to understand and avoid similar SAEs in the future. If necessary, conversations can be postponed but should be followed up on. By addressing SAEs in a respectful and proactive manner, a more equitable and inclusive workplace can be created.

Combatting Subtle Acts of Exclusion

In diverse teams, subtle acts of exclusion are bound to happen. To prevent such behavior, it’s crucial to create a culture that recognizes and calls them out. Acknowledging that people make mistakes takes the judgement out of an intervention, empowering human resource officers to intervene constructively when necessary. Establishing accountability policies and having executive leadership committed to diversity and inclusion is vital to creating a culture that welcomes all individuals regardless of their gender identities. By becoming a role model for handling SAEs and implementing a company-wide policy, businesses can prevent talented individuals from leaving due to unchecked behavior.

Gender Identities and Workplace Diversity

Understanding gender identities is essential to promote workplace diversity. Biological sex refers to the sex babies are born with, while gender describes the social roles associated with it. Cisgender people identify with their biological sex, while transgender individuals do not align with their biological sex and may change their appearances to fit their gender identities. Gender nonconforming and gender fluid persons reject traditional gender roles and prefer to be referred to by gender-neutral pronouns. All gender expressions should be equally valued and normalized.
To improve diversity, team members should be mindful of biased acts and address them proactively. Policies should grant equal speaking time to everyone in meetings. Listening attentively, avoiding making assumptions, and becoming aware of biases are key to achieving diversity goals. Discrimination and harassment have no place in the workplace, and everyone should feel welcome and supported.

The Linguistic Importance of Inclusion

Language that “others” individuals creates barriers to equity and inclusion. Ridiculing names or lumping people into preconceived notions can alienate those around you. When using language that others, one elevates themselves to a superior status. Companies can address and prevent bias through SAE training, which makes feedback easier to accept and productive conversations possible. Avoid making assumptions based on appearances and strive to remember someone’s name correctly. Creating a language of inclusivity promotes equity, diversity, and recognition of each other’s unique identities.

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