Ten Examples of Microaggressions in the Workplace
Updated: 5 days ago
Microaggressions are subtle, indirect or unintentional actions or statements that express bias, discrimination, or prejudice towards a person or group. These behaviors can be intentional or unintentional and may be communicated through verbal or nonverbal means.
Microaggressions can take many forms, such as comments, behaviors, or assumptions that communicate a negative message about a person or group based on their perceived identity, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and age.
Microaggressions can have a cumulative effect over time and can contribute to feelings of exclusion, alienation, and discrimination.
The Impact of Microaggressions on the Workplace
Microaggressions can be harmful in many ways in the workplace, including:
Decreased Productivity and Engagement
Microaggressions can create a toxic work environment, which can lead to decreased productivity and engagement. Employees who feel excluded or marginalized may be less motivated to contribute their best work.
Increased Stress and Burnout
Experiencing microaggressions can be a significant source of stress and can lead to burnout. When employees are subjected to repeated microaggressions, it can create a hostile work environment and negatively impact their mental health.
Damage to Team Cohesion
Microaggressions can create divisions and tensions within teams, which can damage team cohesion and collaboration. When employees feel excluded or marginalized, it can create a lack of trust and respect among team members.
Loss of Talent
Employees who experience microaggressions may leave the workplace, leading to a loss of talent and expertise. This can result in high turnover rates and recruitment costs.
Microaggressions can lead to discrimination lawsuits and legal risks for the company. Employers have a legal responsibility to provide a workplace free from discrimination, and failing to address microaggressions can put the company at risk.
More information from Harvard Business Review
Ten Examples of Microaggressions in the Workplace
Here are ten examples of microaggressions that may occur the Workplace.
A coworker asks a person of color where they are from, assuming they are not from the United States.
A supervisor consistently mispronounces the name of an employee who has a non-English name.
A colleague assumes that a woman in a leadership position is an assistant, rather than the actual decision-maker.
A coworker makes a joke about someone's accent or dialect.
A manager interrupts or talks over an employee during a meeting, particularly if they are a woman or person of color.
A coworker assumes that a person with a disability needs help without asking them first.
A colleague tells a racist joke, assuming that everyone present will find it funny.
A supervisor comments on a woman's appearance in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable or objectified.
A coworker uses language that is insensitive or offensive to a person's gender identity or sexual orientation.
A manager ignores the contributions of an employee or assigns them menial tasks because of their age.
How to Deal with and Prevent Microaggressions in the Workplace
Dealing with microaggressions in the workplace can be challenging, but there are several strategies you can use to address and prevent them:
Learn more about microaggressions and how they can impact individuals and teams in the workplace. Understanding what microaggressions are and how they work can help you identify and address them when they occur.
If you witness a microaggression, speak up in the moment. You can do this by directly addressing the person who made the comment or action, or by redirecting the conversation to a more inclusive and respectful tone.
If you experience or witness a microaggression, report it to your supervisor or HR representative. Your employer should have a policy in place to address these incidents and investigate them.
Create a Safe Space
Encourage open communication and create a safe space for colleagues to share their experiences and concerns. This can help prevent microaggressions from occurring and create a more inclusive workplace.
Offer training and education to your colleagues and managers about microaggressions and how to prevent them. This can include implicit bias training, diversity and inclusion training, and workshops on communication skills and cultural awareness.
Hold Individuals Accountable
Hold individuals accountable for their actions and words. This can include providing consequences for repeated or intentional microaggressions, and ensuring that everyone is held to the same standards of behavior.
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