Microaggressions in the Workplace

High performing businesses and teams know to how recognize and never tolerate microaggressions within their work environments. What are microaggressions? Microaggressions are indirect, subtle, and possibly unintentional discrimination against marginalized groups.  These can be anything from actions, exclusions, or incidents.

Microaggressions can take place in verbal form. Some statements can be very subtle. While not a direct statement, it can be intended to be offensive when it is against various groups.  Microaggressions can also be behavioral. These are assumed actions based on someone’s culture and abilities. These types of actions or statements can be considered a form of stereotyping for certain positions within an organization.  Microaggressions can also be environmental. For example, making a person who is a native born citizen feel like a foreigner because he/she doesn’t look like who would be a traditional citizen is an environmental microaggression.

Microaggressions can also be racial.  This can be verbal and/or behavioral depending on the statement or action. For example, making a declaration that someone is “articulate” or “well-spoken” could make the assertion or implication that someone’s race may not be intelligent as whole while claiming he/she is an exception to the rule.

Microaggressions can also be gender based.  This could making assumptions or statements about a person while using gender as the sole basis. Some examples are: “Women can’t perform leadership tasks” or “Physical tasks can only be performed by men”.  These statements or behaviors will usually cause great harm to an organization because of the propensity to overlook and underestimate the capabilities of everyone on the team.

Any time microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations are tolerated, no organization will ever reach its fullest potential. Every member of an organization should be made to feel like a valued member of their team regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender preference or national origin.

Everyone within an organization has the responsibility of creating an environment that is free of statements and behaviors that will reduce the overall effectiveness of its workforce. Every leader, manager, and employee has the responsibility to recognize these statements/behaviors and ensure there is zero tolerance within its organization.  Every member of the team deserves to be valued for who they are and their individual contributions. Microaggressions (regardless of severity) greatly diminishes a work environment, its personnel, and its ability to function as a cohesive team.

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