Microaggressions in the Wokplace: Let’s Talk

Micro aggressions in the workplace

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What do you think about when you think Microaggressions? Oh, I would never do that.. I have never hurt anyone unintentionally, or intentionally…Well, you may be surprised to know, there are many subtle ways it can happen. Microaggressions are subtle verbal or non-verbal exchanges that send denigrating messages to the recipient because of his or her group membership. The initiator of the message may be unaware that he or she has engaged in a behavior that is cumulative, which means, one of a lifetime of demeaning messages that can truly erode its victim’s confidence. In other words, this probably isn’t the first time this has happened to someone, so your microaggression is really negatively impactful.

In the present day, people can direct microaggressions toward any marginalized group. A marginalized group comprises“individuals, groups, or populations outside of ‘mainstream society,’ living at the margins of those in the center of power, of cultural dominance, and economical and social welfare.”Groups may experience marginalization due to their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.

It is usually clear when someone is being discriminatory, such as when they use a racial slur. However, a microaggression may be harder to spot. The person using the microaggression may not even realize that what they are saying is harmful.

So, on that note, what are the different types of microaggressions and some clear examples so you understand them a little more clearly?

  • Verbal: A verbal microaggression is a comment or question that is hurtful or stigmatizing to a certain marginalized group of people. For example, saying, “You’re so intelligent for a woman”.
  • Behavioral: A behavioral microaggression happens when someone behaves in a way that is hurtful or discriminatory to a certain group of people. An example might be a shop clerk ignoring a transgender person and instead helping a cisgender person (someone whose biological sex matches their gender identity) first.
  • Environmental: An environmental microaggression is when a subtle discrimination occurs within society in general. A good example of an environmental microaggression could be a college campus that historically, only has buildings named after white people.

So, how can I make sure to not only be aware of microaggressions, but to be sensitive and aware of how I behave myself in the workplace and outside of it?

  • Try not to be defensive or dismiss someone’s feelings.
  • Don’t generalize about people or groups.
  • Take responsibility for any underlying bias held toward certain groups and take steps to become more educated and understanding of everyone.
  • Commit to changing micro aggressive behaviors when you see or hear them.

Want to learn more about microaggressions and DEI? We provide extensive training resources and programs designed to get you and your organization up to speed and make sure all your employees feel satisfied and comfortable in your workplace. Work Friendly would be happy to help! Please reach out to [email protected] for more information on our offerings.

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