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What Are Microaggressions At Work and How Can You Avoid Them?

When you’re introducing DEI strategies into your workplace, there are a lot of new concepts, terms, and ideas to disseminate. Diversity, equity, and inclusion or DEI in the workplace is a conceptual framework that aims to promote the fair treatment and participation of all people, including those from groups that have been historically underrepresented. Continue reading this blog to learn about the concept of microaggressions, why they’re harmful, and how you can avoid them at work to ensure everyone feels safe. 

DEI work can be difficult at times, as it requires time and reflection. However, DEI work is worth it: it’s the right thing to do and it’s benefits include,

  • increased sales revenue
  • increased customer base 
  • improved customer satisfaction 
  • increased profits.

What’s A Microaggression?

A microaggression is an everyday, subtle, usually unintentional interaction or behaviour that communicates a bias toward a historically marginalized group. The biggest difference between microaggressions and macroaggressions is that, as stated above, people are often not even aware that they’ve committed a microaggression. 

Read some examples of microaggressions here: What Is A Microaggression? from Business Insider

“Since microaggressions are mostly communicated through language,” says Christine Mallison, a professor of language, literacy, and culture from the University of Maryland, it’s important to pay attention to how we speak in the workplace. Since microaggressions are so subtle, it’s difficult to know if we’ve committed one or been on the receiving end of one. 

Learning about microaggressions is not about placing blame -  it’s fair to say that everyone has communicated a microaggression before - it’s about making the workplace a safe place for everyone. A place where all employees want to be. 

How to Avoid Microaggressions in the Workplace?

The University of Washington’s medical school has provided a framework for how to prevent microaggressions. Here are some of their tips: 

  1. Question your beliefs: Why do we believe what we believe? Do we believe stereotypes, unknowingly? By questioning these beliefs we can prevent ourselves from buying into these stereotypes in the future. 
  2. Believe people: When someone tells us something we said or did was harmful, believe them. 
  3. Don’t get defensive: When someone tells us we were harmful it’s easy to want to defend ourselves, especially if we weren’t intentionally trying to hurt someone. Remember that our impact is more important than our intent. Instead of getting defensive, recognize that they aren’t attacking your self-worth, they just want you to know how they feel.

DEI work is continuous and ongoing. Chances are, as we implement DEI strategies at work, we’ll get things wrong and make mistakes. That’s ok. When that happens the best thing we can do is apologize and keep pushing forward with more information and a better understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

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External links are provided as informational resources only and are not necessarily endorsed by Ontario East.



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