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Maintaining Emotional Wellness When Faced with Discrimination at Work

by Mark D. Lerner, Ph.D.

Chairman, The National Center for Emotional Wellness


Discrimination in the workplace, whether racial, gender, age, sexual orientation, or other, can significantly impact your emotional well-being (Farley, Galves, Dickinson, Perez, & Birch, 2005). It not only affects your job satisfaction but can also lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and depression. It's essential to address and cope with discrimination effectively to maintain your emotional wellness. This National Center article provides several evidence-based strategies and practical tools to navigate and cope with workplace discrimination.


One strategy to cope with discrimination is to develop a strong support system. Seek allies within and outside the organization who can provide emotional support and potential guidance. Creating connections with individuals who have faced similar experiences can help mitigate feelings of isolation and provide a safe space to share your thoughts and feelings (Hackman & Rogers, 2015).


Another strategy is to focus on self-care. Engaging in activities that promote emotional and physical well-being, such as exercise, yoga, relaxation training, meditation, and journaling, can help reduce stress and restore a sense of balance (Wong, Wong, & Scott, 2017). Additionally, establishing separation, or compartmentalizing between work and personal life, can help maintain emotional boundaries and prevent discrimination from consuming every aspect of your life.


Assertiveness is another valuable skill to develop when faced with discrimination. Being assertive involves expressing your feelings, thoughts, and needs in a non-aggressive manner. It can help you set boundaries, address discriminatory behavior, and advocate for yourself professionally (Rospenda, Richman, & Nawosad, 2017). Developing assertiveness skills can give you the tools to confront discriminatory practices confidently and clearly.


Seeking legal guidance is essential when dealing with discrimination at work. Consulting with an attorney who specializes in employment law can help you better understand your rights and assess the validity of potential legal claims (Mello, Miao, & Vanderheide, 2019). Legal support ensures you are adequately protected and can navigate the complex legal process surrounding discrimination.


Maintaining emotional wellness in the face of workplace discrimination requires implementing evidence-based strategies. Developing a support system, practicing self-care, and being assertive can significantly contribute to coping with discrimination. Seeking legal guidance can ensure you are protected, and your organization is held accountable.


Emotional wellness training must be a priority, and steps should be taken to promote inclusive work environments—equipping employees with the necessary tools to address discrimination in the workplace effectively.


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