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How to say when it’s not okay: Collaborative project launches guidance to help staff tackle prejudicial ‘isms’ in workplace conversation

When someone behaves in a discriminatory way – whether subtly or overtly, intentionally or not, in a group or one-to-one – it can be difficult to decide what, if anything, to do. This decision can be especially complicated at work when so many other dynamics are in play.

Research shows that, while it can be relatively easy to describe what should be done when we experience or witness discriminatory behaviour, it can be much harder to act in the moment. Speaking out and exposing what is going on can carry risks for the person who does so.

Professor Elizabeth Stokoe and the Discourse and Rhetoric Group (DARG) have worked with the Maia Network to produce a practical resource to help staff tackle prejudicial ‘-isms’ in workplace conversation. Originating in two workshops delivered for Maia in March and July 2020, the ‘How to say when it’s not okay’ resource outlines eight practical things to say when it’s not okay.

These strategies are based on what people actually do – also subtly or overtly – when others say something that is a prejudicial ‘-ism’ (eg racism, ageism, and other forms, and their intersections).

They are also effective in other situations where things are not okay. Those who would like specific advice on how to address someone who is not following COVID-19 health and safety guidance (such as social distancing) can find more information online.

The resource may also provide a basis for further conversations about deciding whether and how to intervene. You can access it here.

To find out more about Maia and to register as a member, visit their website.