Addressing Microaggressions

Microaggressions are subtle comments or actions that show prejudice and reduce inclusive teamwork. Prevent microaggressions through awareness training.

What are microaggressions?

Microaggressions—comments or actions that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally invalidate, discriminate against or show prejudice toward people based on race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation—are endured by many employees on a daily basis, according to Aaron Barth, founder of Dialectic, an organizational culture firm. They include being interrupted or talked over during meetings, having your abilities or judgment second-guessed and questions like, “Where are you really from?”

Why are they so harmful?

For one thing, microaggressions can have a big impact on your company’s ability to attract diverse talent: According to a 2020 McKinsey survey, 39% of job applicants have decided against pursuing or accepting a position because they believed an organization would not be inclusive. Those numbers are even higher for LGBTQ+ applicants (50%), ethnic or racial minorities (45%) and women (44%).

Why is training important?

If workplace microaggressions aren’t addressed and are allowed to build over time, they can undermine perceptions of inclusion and reduce teamwork, wellness, engagement and productivity, Barth says.

How do I implement it?

Successful microaggression prevention training shifts behavior rather than simply raising awareness, according to Barth. Training should be brief, happen regularly, and involve real-world scenarios where employees learn how to recognize and avoid microaggressions. For example, a couple of times a week, present employees with a realistic situation, and have them decide what they would do or say, then show the consequence of (and give feedback about) that action.


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