“That dress makes you look ten pounds thinner.” “I’m not racist. I have several black friends.” “You don’t even look gay.” Those statements are all microaggressions – unintentional, we would hope, but nonetheless hurtful. Microaggressions are a subcategory of unconscious bias, defined as verbal or physical slights, insults, or comments that are offensive towards underrepresented groups. A consistent pattern of microaggressions is among the key causes for low employee productivity, “quiet quitting,” and customer alienation – all of which have a negative impact on an organization’s bottom line.
Microaggressions leave at least one member of an organization feeling a slew of negative emotions: anger, dejection, and attack. According to Harvard Business Review, microaggressions have been shown time and time again to greatly reduce the ability of staffers to work together, thus limiting the productivity and profitability of a company.
The first step to preventing microaggressions in the workplace is to educate yourself on the topic. If you are able to observe microaggressions in everyday life and acknowledge when you may have made such mistakes in the past, you’ll find it easier to avoid microaggressions in the future. You can then use this knowledge to educate employees by having open discussions on microaggression to help spread awareness.
That brings us to the most important step to putting a stop to microaggressions: organization-wide self-awareness. In another article by Harvard Business School, the authors point out that when all members of a business or organization can collectively realize that they may engage in some of these harmful phrases or actions, everyone can work together to prevent them.
Open discussions and communication are vital to changing corporate culture. It’s essential to make sure that every member of an organization understands the concept of microaggressions, and how eliminating them will foster diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).
Just as important as awareness is the creation of a safe space for discussion. Workplace leaders should make sure that all underrepresented groups in an office feel comfortable with calling coworkers out on offensive language or actions in a healthy, respectful manner. This will help other employees to recognize their own faults, whether intentional or not, while also empowering others to speak out against wrongful behavior.
As microaggressions diminish within an organization, they will also diminish in the organization’s outward-facing interactions. Customers will feel welcomed and appreciated, and their loyalty, repeat business, and social-media praise all add to your company’s profits.
Because there are many types of microaggressions, it can be difficult to gain the self-awareness necessary to overcome this issue once and for all. To help with this, the University of Minnesota put together a comprehensive list of examples of microaggressions and their implied messages that may help with understanding this concept.
Businesses are making purposeful and effective efforts in improving DEI. Address your organization’s workplace microaggressions, and take another step closer to achieving your DEI goals.
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