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  • Writer's pictureBaljit Kaur

Understanding Microaggressions


Microaggressions are subtle, often unintentional, instances of prejudice that can cut deeply, affecting an individual's sense of belonging and well-being. These can occur in any interpersonal interaction and often target individuals based on their protected characteristics, such as disability, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, and religion. Recognising these subtle slights is an important step toward creating an inclusive and equitable environment for all. While microaggressions might seem minor to some, they accumulate over time, causing significant emotional distress and impacting professional performance.


Microaggressions Across Various Characteristics


Microaggressions can be subtle or unintentional actions that convey discriminatory or demeaning messages. For ethnic minorities, microaggressions might include complimenting someone on their good English or asking, "Where are you really from?" after they’ve shared their hometown. Gender-based microaggressions might involve comments like, "You’re really good at this for a woman." For LGBTQ+ individuals, it might be statements such as, "You don't look gay." 


Addressing Microaggressions


To foster an inclusive environment that values all forms of diversity, organisations should aim to mitigate microaggressions. Effective strategies include promoting self-awareness through workshops and seminars, building a culture of respect by encouraging positive interactions and constructive feedback, establishing safe and confidential reporting mechanisms, and regularly reviewing and updating policies to address microaggressions. By raising awareness, offering diversity and inclusion training, and fostering open and honest communication about these issues, organisations can work towards a more inclusive society that values and respects all individuals.


Strategies for Handling Workplace Microaggressions

  • Reflect and Get Support: Take a moment to think about your feelings and reactions to determine if it was a microaggression and how it affected you. Talk it over with trusted colleagues, friends, or mentors to get their perspective and advice.

  • Address It Directly: Calmly and assertively let the person know how their comment or action impacted you. Use resources like HR, diversity and inclusion programs, or employee assistance to handle the issue professionally.

  • Document and Advocate: Keep a record of the microaggressions you experience, including dates, details, and witnesses, to build a case if needed. Push for diversity and inclusion training programs at work to raise awareness and foster a more inclusive culture.

  • Support and Join Groups: If you see a colleague experiencing a microaggression, step in gently and respectfully to support them and address the issue. Join or create affinity groups or Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to provide a safe space for sharing experiences, seeking advice, and promoting inclusivity at work.


This is a great video which explains what microaggressions are, their impact and how to address.



The Impact and Benefits of an Inclusive Culture


Microaggressions can have a profound impact on employees from various protected groups, leading to decreased job satisfaction, reduced productivity, and higher turnover rates. Creating an inclusive culture that actively addresses and prevents microaggressions brings numerous benefits, including enhanced employee well-being, increased retention, boosted innovation, and a positive reputation.


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