In Her Words: Experiences with Racial Microaggressions at Work
I have a story to share — a true story from 14 years ago, although it feels like a lifetime since it happened. I was working for a South Asian Immigrant, a dynamic lady who graduated from Kellogg and had been an entrepreneur. She was a woman who had her own immigrant story like me. The irony was that I was working with her in Diversity Hiring.
She hired a white male from a top consulting firm and I was working with him, helping him with research on a project for a Fortune 500 firm. I was getting a little concerned as the client was waiting on us and he was a bit slow to turn around the work I was producing.
Long story short, I wasn’t sure what I was experiencing at the time. He was constantly pointing fingers at me every time we spoke. He refused to address me by name, saying “Hey You” instead. Slowly, everyone around the office began to notice these microaggressions.
I continued working without saying a word. Eventually, I decided to speak up and shared with my boss that I wasn’t comfortable working with him for various reasons. My boss called him, HR, and me into the office.
Right away, he said, “We don’t need Radhika. I can do what she is doing.”
I began to break down inside. My boss responded by saying, “I’ve seen Radhika’s work ethic and I know her professionalism and talent. She stays and you are fired.”
It was quick and over just like that. And, at that moment I realized the trauma I had been facing.
I was then front and center working directly with the client and leading the project, which ended up being a big success for our firm.
I often think about this situation and the power of speaking up when faced with microaggressions as a woman, a woman of color, and an immigrant in this country. I am also thankful to the woman who amplified my voice and gave me the courage to speak up.
I share this now to show how speaking up and taking up space changed things for me. I invite you to be an ally to people of color. Take notice of what is happening around you and take action.
Additionally, when more people of diverse backgrounds are in positions of leadership, they are more likely to give marginalized groups space and a platform to be their full selves. They are more likely to create a better and safer work environment for all. People of color and BIPOC face unfair treatment in the workplace all the time and not all of them have bosses like I did, who they can go to for support, and who will treat them with the compassion and respect they deserve.
I urge you to take a stand in your own workplaces. If you see a colleague being disrespectful or even unintentionally racist, speak to them if you’re comfortable or point it out to a superior. Aim to make your workplace more inclusive and safer for all. And, listen to people of color. Listen to their experiences, opinions, and perspectives.
About Radhika Mukhija Sud: Radhika is the Founder of Holistic Prana where she offers Integrative Health and Life Coaching. She has had the honor of mentoring busy women professionals and entrepreneurs around the world to a superior state of wellbeing, cognitive performance, and inner bliss. Her approach seamlessly blends together science-based practices to improve the function of every aspect of the body, as well as resources along with accountability that uplift the mind and spirit.
Radhika was born in India and raised with yoga, consciousness, and meditation. She was always intrigued by the workings of the human mind and that led her to pursue her bachelor’s in Psychology along with MBA in HR. Her former life involved hiring top management talent – CEOs and C-level professionals as an executive search consultant for banking and financial services companies across the globe.
When her mom got diagnosed with cancer, she was determined to help her heal. Her research returned her to her roots and led to a deeper understanding of mindfulness, yoga, and Ayurveda–and the mind-body-spirit connection. Now, as a certified Integrative Health and Life coach, she blends that ancient wisdom with clinical sensibilities, including neuroscience and biohacking.
For more FQ buzz, check out: