Microaggression in the Workplace

What are Microaggressions?

Organizations are finally having serious conversations about racism, diversity, and inclusion in workplaces throughout the world. This is one of many steps that will help pave the way for effective anti-racist action from individuals and organisations alike.

However, those discussions will almost certainly be uncomfortable — not only for white employees and leaders who may be confronting their privilege for the first time, but also for people of colour, particularly Black Americans, who know that such conversations with colleagues will mean they must either face or point out “microaggressions.”

To understand how companies can minimize microaggressions in the workplace it is important to define what they entail. Microaggressions are defined as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults to marginalized individuals and groups.” Typically they fall into one of three categories:

  • Behavioural: conveying a message or engaging in behaviours that are furthering stereotypes and displaying insensitivity.
  • Verbal: This is one of the most common examples of microaggressions – an individual may say something without the intent of discrimination – yet the implication of what they are saying is discriminatory to a marginalized group.
  • Environmental: Environmental microaggressions are characterized by an environment that lacks representation and diversity.

Can we create a workplace free of microaggressions?

Although it is difficult to eliminate microaggressions in the workplace, it is important for companies to take steps to try and limit their impact on the work environment for employees. In this capacity here are steps companies can take:

  • Provide workshops defining and explaining what Microagressions are to employees
  • Promote allyship (encourage employees to speak up when they witness problematic behaviour)
  • Encourage employees to recognize their biases and prejudices.
  • Collect and analyze Diversity and Inclusion data to identify potential problems and what can be done to mitigate this

By implementing these solutions companies can amplify their allyship and show support to their employees.

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