Microaggression refers to any comment, action, or incident resulting from unintentional prejudice against a marginalized group. The group here could mean a race, a gender, or an ethnic minority.
Microaggressions are subtle and often result from implicit bias. Implicit bias can be unintentional, but it is as harmful as explicit bias. Implicit bias and resulting microaggressions reveal the deeply embedded form of domination and prejudices in a person. Years of oppression give rise to implicit bias in a person, and it takes time to unlearn problematic behaviors.
Chester Pierce, the Harvard-trained psychiatrist, coined the term microaggression. Pierce believed that microaggression was an outcome of black/white interaction, where the white people would often put down the black, almost perfunctorily.
A study shows that 26% of Americans have experienced microaggressions at work, and 22% are unsure. 36% have been a bystander to microaggressions and 24% unsure of being witnesses. With a meager 40% of American workers stating that they have never seen microaggressions, the numbers reveal a deep disparity in the population.
Microaggression roots from racism. Even though most people are not openly racists, they express it indirectly in some way or the other. Though most microaggressions result from racial bias, there are also other forms of marginalization in the workplace.
Microaggression in the workplace may result in severe consequences. Most employees are subjected to unprofessional behavior or commentary or have seen someone else get credited for their ideas. The incidents seem innocuous enough until the underlying bias is brought to light.
Microaggression in the workplace has an ‘othering’ effect. It makes the marginalized group the ‘other’ and relies on biased assumptions. This could include any comment about a person based on their identities, such as race, culture, gender, and sexual orientation. For instance, a woman as a superior is often called ‘bossy’, or someone might comment on the features of a different race of people.
Microaggression in the workplace can be narrowed down into the following types:
In the absence of microaggression training, such incidents often go unreported. Microaggression is difficult to report as most of it is subtle and can be unintentional.
Microaggressions can be both verbal and non-verbal and can include gestures, comments, statements, and assumptions, among others. Some common examples of microaggressions are:
Responding to microaggressions at the workplace can be daunting. By not handling such acts, the victim often experiences guilt or disappointment in oneself. However, it is not easy to respond to microaggressions at the workplace.
There are three ways in which a survivor can respond to microaggressions.
Not every perpetrator understands or apologizes for their actions. However, responding to microaggressions at the workplace depends on the victims. They can assess the situation and react accordingly.
Microaggression might look like a slight issue, but the question here is – why should you have to ignore microaggressions? If people are granted equality of rights, then no one must be subject to microaggressions.
The simpler way to counter microaggressions is through microaggression training. Microaggression training in the workplace helps to create a safer work environment for diverse employees. It helps individuals become more informed and aware of their behavior and thought patterns. Moreover, it helps individuals unlearn toxic behavior.
Not addressing microaggression is ethically wrong for the company and leaves a deep impact on the workforce. In this case, the training helps everyone introspect their past behavior and rectify them. It is indispensable and should not be a one-off event at the company.
Expert counselors and psychologists handle microaggression training. The program trains employees to be more empathetic and sensitive to cultural differences. Moreover, it also educates people on bystander intervention. Bystander intervention calls on the collective responsibility of employees. It reduces incidents of microaggressions through detailed training.
Microaggression can damage the company’s reputation. It can also deplete the firm’s human resources as most survivors want to quit the job after experiencing microaggressions. The only recourse for organizations is long-term microaggression training.
Microaggression training seeks to do the following in the workplace:
As a species that thrives in diversity, one cannot dismiss microaggression. By including a course on microaggression training, a company dismantles decades-old biases. It promotes inclusivity in a company and counters any hostile work environment. Microaggression training also leads to higher employee satisfaction which leads to better productivity. Microaggression training spreads awareness of implicit bias. It creates an inclusive work environment for everyone and the only way a workplace can be equal.