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Is your organization 90% white in a city that’s not 90% white? Is it possible your organization is uncomfortable to people of colour and as a white person you haven’t noticed?

It’s no secret that your competition is getting increasingly diverse, and that attracting the best talent also means having the largest talent pool. A large pool means not limiting yourself to half by primarily employing predominantly men or to an even smaller fraction by primarily employing white men.

Maybe your organization has a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy where no one knows who at work is LGBTQ+. While some parts of these issues may be cultural problems of entire industries or societies, the best talent stays at companies with great culture.

Implicit Bigotry (microaggression) is when something is done, structured, or said such that it draws attention to or reiterates the “otherness” of a marginalized person or group.

Since intent does not negate impact, it doesn’t matter if it’s intentional or not. What matters is fixing it. The best talent has options and if you aren’t a comfortable organization for all people, even if you attract the best talent, they may not stick around.

So what does othering or otherness look like? It looks like bringing up a point of difference or disempowerment from a position of power. That means a marginalized person can bring up their disability, being trans, queerness, or ethnic origin, but to ask about it from outside that marginalized place or from a position of power is potentially harmful.

To a Jewish person who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, it might look like asking them what they’re doing for Christmas.

To a person of colour, it might be approaching them and then starting the conversation off with a topic about people of colour. Perhaps you asked “Where are you from?” or “Where is your accent from” or “How long have you been in Canada?” or didn’t accept their answer: “You (don’t) look like you’re from ___.” or “but where are you really from?” Yes, people say these things at work to people of colour.

To a queer person, it might be asking questions like “which one wears the pants” or asking about their genitals

In each example above (not an exhaustive list), there was an assumed default or prescribed way of being, some dominant cultural notion; alternatively, a deeply personal or inappropriate question was being asked of someone outside of a deeply personal relationship.