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Deal with Workplace Discrimination

Deal with Workplace Discrimination

By Lauren Bayne Anderson

April 08, 2011

Say Ouch!

Sometimes you’re caught off guard and too stunned to say just the right thing. But one thing that’s always easy to remember and makes an impact is simply saying “ouch!” It’s similar to the response you’d have if someone stepped on your toe. It puts a pause in the conversation and communicates a lot with little effort. It tells the person that their words hurt or had a negative impact on me or others I care about.

The EEOC says, “If you have the time and the energy, you can ‘Ouch and Educate’ – explain how the words affected you or others.”

Here’s an example. Someone says, “So about the holiday schedule — let Jenny work the holiday shifts. She’s single. She doesn’t have family.” Response: “Ouch! What do you mean?” Or another response, “Well, I know that you’re trying to help out the other employees, but is that fair to Jenny?” Or, you can simply say, “Ouch!”

Some techniques may be easier for some people than others. But remember, you can use the techniques outlined here at any time. You can also come back later and address something said earlier. Speak up — effectively and with respect.

  • “I know you mean well, but that hurt.”
  • “What do you mean?”
  • “Whoa, let’s not go down that path.”
  • “I don’t think it’s a gay thing. I think that applies to everyone.”
  • “Do you mean all managers, or are you speaking of someone in particular?”

And if that’s not enough?

If you’ve followed these steps and are still hitting a wall, the situation is ongoing, or you simply feel the situation warrants greater attention or action, you have options. Reporting the incident to your supervisor and/or HR department are options. Visit the EEOC’s website for more information on dealing with and reporting discrimination.

Information compiled from The Huffington Post and the EEOC. For more information, visit the EEOC’s website at