Microaggressions: Everything You Need to Know

Microaggression refers to any statement, act, or incident occurring from unintended discrimination against a marginalized community. The community here could indicate a gender, race, or ethnic minority. In addition, microaggressions are subtle and usually arise from implicit bias, but it is as dangerous as explicit prejudice.

Understanding the Concept of Microaggression 

Have you ever felt as though you were being subjected to a type of subtle bias or stereotyping? As if someone had just said or done anything that makes you feel unwelcomed or criticized because of your gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or other feature associated with a minority group? If this is the case, you probably have encountered a microaggression.  

Microaggressions usually have a significant impact while being more subtle and presumably less destructive than apparent prejudice or hostility. Being subjected to repeated microaggressions overtime may be harming your mental health. 

As a result, you must never entirely disregard their existence or assume it as something that will not concern you. Instead, you must recognize microaggressions at the earliest and move forward with a cohesive approach to mitigate their impact. 

What Are the Types of Microaggressions in a Workplace?

Microaggression in the workplace may end in harsh impacts. The acts of microaggression include unprofessional conduct, derogatory comments, or someone else taking credit for their ideas. The happenings seem harmless enough until the underlying prejudice comes to light. In addition, microaggressions in an organization hold an ‘othering’ impact. 

It makes the marginalized employee community the ‘other’ and depends on prejudicial beliefs. It could comprise any statement about an individual based on their individualism, such as culture, race, gender, and sexual orientation. 

Mentioned underneath are some of the common types of microaggressions in the workplace. 

  • Microassaults

Microaggressions that are obvious and serious are known as micro assaults. Most of the time, these micro assaults get perpetrated on purpose, and the perpetrator is aware that they are damaging and disparaging. In addition, using a colloquial or defamatory term to refer to someone of a certain race with the knowledge that the word has a derogatory sense is an example of microassaults in a workplace.

  • Microinsults

Microinsult is usually more subtle than microassaults. It is frequently a backhanded compliment or a comment having a hidden meaning. Saying that someone only received their employment because of legacy admissions is an example of a micro insult.

  • Microinvalidations 

Microinvalidation is when someone tells a minority group that their recollections of bias do not matter or that they are being overly sensitive to what gets stated. In other words, a microinvalidation could occur as an outcome of a micro assault or insult.

  • Environmental microaggression

Something in a person’s lifestyle that delivers a message of marginalization to a minority group is known as an environmental microaggression

For example, a kid who watches a television program and notices actors only of a particular race might feel excluded or unrepresented. Also, you can think about the numerous kinds of groups that remain affected in society in addition to the varied types of microaggressions.

Microaggressions and Their Consequences

Have you ever wondered what impact microaggressions have on those who get attacked? Or, microaggressions affect which groups? Microaggressions can happen to anyone disadvantaged in some way. Historically, this has included racial minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and LGBTQ people, but any marginalized group, including those with mental illness, holds the potential to get affected. 

While these minor insults and abuses usually have negligible impact, studies prove that collective microaggression attacks significantly impact a person’s mental well-being over time. In fact, it’s been proved that there is a link between the frequency of microaggressions attacks and the severity of mental health problems or depression.  

Also, microaggressions have likewise got associated with other psychological issues. Low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger, and not knowing how to react are the most common ways people feel stress and its effects on mental health. 

All of these challenges amplify microaggressions and build a cloud of self-doubt, resulting in poor mental health. In this way, it is not simply about hurting your feelings. It is always about persistent stress, which causes rage and anxiety and has long-term consequences. Likewise, microaggressions are the small jokes or derogatory comments you hear that adversely impact your mental health.

Managing Microaggressions

When you’re the object of microaggressions, how do you handle it? You might be unsure how to respond if you’ve been the victim of a micro offense, micro assault, or any other sort of microaggression. Don’t worry! You are not on your own. However, it is crucial to take measures to safeguard your mental health. 

Also, as feeling uncomfortable and unable to reply leads to persistent stress and mental health deterioration, it is crucial to bring microaggressions to the public because the transgressors might not realize how they made you feel otherwise. 

While it may seem normal to be annoyed or furious, it is preferable to gently communicate with your supervisors about how you feel regarding the situation so that the other individual is aware. In addition, even when explicit microaggressions can be challenging to deal with (for example, when someone purposely tries to make you feel awful), unintentional microaggressions may be easier to address.

Microaggressions: How to avoid them

How do we, as people, as a community, and as members of the global family, prevent microaggressions? Apart from communicating how microaggressions harm you as a target, it is also crucial to discuss how to avoid being a target of microaggressions. The only way to prevent microaggressions in this way is for everyone to examine their own biases. 

And to do so, you will need to subject yourself to a more extensive range of occurrences, people, and possibly even things that make you feel uneasy. Furthermore, it is necessary to listen if someone voices an opinion and informs you that something you said or done has caused them pain. Above all, think before you speak and contemplate how your words will affect others. 

Others may feel ignored, alienated, offended, or invalidated as an effect of microaggressions. They emphasize authority and privilege disparities, perpetuating prejudices and discrimination. Therefore, it becomes essential to assess your biases, pay attention to what you say, and control yourself when your comments are potentially harmful.

Some say that the solution to this issue is not more politically correct but rather addressing the underlying problem. For example, it may be desirable not to regulate language in a way that further divides people because those who do not realize their biases are unlikely to change their words or behaviors.

The Bottom Line 

In this modern, diverse business environment, microaggressions emerge as a significant problem. However, you can help solve this issue whether you are a victim of microaggressions or somebody who has consciously or unknowingly targeted others with microaggressions. 

As a victim, it is crucial to communicate how microaggressions affect you so that others can accurately address the issue and empathize with you. Also, when it comes to microaggressions, you will only see genuine change or progress if the problem gets identified, acknowledged and efforts are made to correct it. 
Apart from this, by incorporating microaggression training, organizations can get rid of decades-old prejudices. Microaggression training facilitates inclusivity in a business and counters any hostile work atmosphere, leading to higher employee satisfaction and better productivity.

Related Content


Impactly’s online sexual harassment and diversity, equity & inclusion training packages are used by hundreds of organizations across the country. Impactly is powered by Get Inclusive, one of the largest providers of prevention and compliance training for colleges and universities.