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Did You Say What I Think You Said: 5 Strategies To Address Microaggressions

As part of our Inclusion Journey, let's turn to a lingering challenge for women in the workplace. Microagressions are known as seemingly small comments that are harmful to the recipient. According to a Lean In Women in the Workplace Study, 40% of women with disabilities report being interrupted, 38% of Black Women report having their judgment questioned, and 25% of LGBTQ+ women received comments on their emotional state. Unchecked microaggressions can cause emotional and physical harm. This article will share five strategies for dealing with microaggressions in the workplace.


If On the Receiving End, Here's What To Do About MicroAggressions:

  1. Don't ignore and minimize microaggressions, hoping they'll dissipate. Think of them as a cut that requires immediate attention. Find the proper healing source to heal the wound and act accordingly. Do note that some injuries extend past a bandaid fix. So, leverage mental health providers as a resource to determine the approach to resolution. One example is a leader who minimizes the presence of others by only acknowledging one person by name in a small group presentation. While it may be a seemingly innocent oversight, if the leader repeatedly takes the same approach, it signals that the favored presenter is part of the in-group while the other group members aren't. Unchecked, this behavior impacts engagement levels. The bandaid fix is to provide input to the leader about the necessity for inclusive language.

  2. Do some role-playing and practice addressing them. Start by writing out a list of the microaggressions experienced (or are aware of) and an approach for resolving them. The HBR article, When and How to Respond to Microaggressions by Ella F. Washington, Alison Hall Birch, and Laura Morgan Roberts, suggests leveraging a 4D framework that includes discernment on approach, dancing with discomfort, deducing intent, and deciding investment in the outcomes.

  3. Create partnerships to provide support. In meeting scenarios where repeated microaggressions occur, receivers must leverage those partnerships. How would this materialize? If someone is constantly interrupting and devaluing input, partners should highlight microaggression and ask for rectification of the microaggression (s) during or after the meeting. It is critical to have a predefined strategy (i,e., identify who will be in the room and who can support) for handling microaggressions. Have conversations ahead of time if this is something that always happens. So, for example, if the same person is always cutting us off and signaling that our message isn't essential, leverage data points to address what's happening.

  4. No doubt, microaggressions can be taxing and cause weariness. Taking the time to build our confidence will yield dividends when we need to address microaggressions. Toastmasters is a place to practice confidence-building skills. After completing the initial ten speeches, leverage the persuasive advanced speech to gain additional communication tips.

  5. Become well-versed in workplace policies and procedures. Reviewing the mission and values is an excellent place to start. Studying previous leadership communications on creating an inclusive workplace would be another valuable source. Hold leaders accountable for building a thriving workplace culture. So, ask for action to send the message that there is zero-tolerance for microaggressions in the workplace.

This article was originally published in Forbes

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