How to do microaggression training in the workplace

Published on April 6th, 2023

How to do microaggression training in the workplace  blog image

Microaggressions in the workplace can be divisive and intolerable. They can also be costly for businesses – leading to decreased productivity and morale. Training employees on what microaggressions are and when it’s appropriate to take action is key to preventing these behaviors from damaging your workplace culture. In this blog post, we’ll explore when microaggressions training is most effective and how you can go about implementing it in your business. 

What is a microaggression and why is it important to address it in the workplace training setting?

A microaggression is a subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a marginalized group member. Microaggressions can take many different forms, but they all share the common goal of marginalizing certain individuals or groups. 

While microaggressions may seem like harmless jabs, they can have a real and lasting impact on their victims. Microaggressions can cause feelings of anxiety, isolation, and worthlessness. They can also lead to job dissatisfaction and turnover.  

In the workplace settings, it is important to address microaggressions because they can create a hostile environment that prevents employees from reaching their full potential. 

When addressing microaggressions in training, it is important to be respectful and sensitive to the needs of all participants. The goal should be to create an environment where everyone feels safe and respected. With this environment, employees will be more likely to engage in training and develop the skills they need to succeed in their careers. 

How can trainers determine when and how to address microaggressions in their training?

Workplace trainers need to be aware of the diverse workforce and how to address microaggressions in their training.  

Trainers can use “What If” exercises to determine when and how to address microaggressions in their workplace training. “What If” exercises are designed to help trainers identify potential problems and solutions before they occur. For example, a trainer might ask, “What if a white employee refuses to participate in a training exercise because they feel it is only designed for people of color?”  

By asking this question, the trainer can develop a plan of action to address the situation before it occurs. Additionally, trainers can create safe spaces for employees to discuss microaggressions by facilitating open dialogue about the issue. By doing so, trainers can help create a more inclusive and diverse workplace. 

What are some examples of microaggressions that can occur in the workplace? 

Microaggressions are small but cumulative acts of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination that can create a hostile work environment. Microaggressions can be intentional or unintentional, direct or indirect.  

Examples of microaggressions in the workplace include:  

  • Making assumptions about someone’s background or experience based on their appearance 
  • Referring to a person by their job title instead of using their name 
  • Speaking over or interrupting others when they are talking
  • Making jokes that target specific demographic groups 
  • Assigning people tasks or roles based on gender stereotypes 
  • Using language that is offensive or dismissive to a certain group of people 
  • Ignoring someone’s ideas and opinions without explanation  

Additionally, managers may be guilty of microaggressions when they give preferential treatment to some employees over others or set unrealistic expectations for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.  Microaggressions can also occur through subtle actions, such as failing to recognize someone’s accomplishments or overlooking their valuable contributions. In any case, microaggressions create an environment of exclusion and disrespect in the workplace. 

Examples of microaggressions in the workplace:

Verbal microaggressions

– Asking someone where they are “really” from (implying that the person is not a native of the region) 

– Making assumptions about someone’s level of expertise based on their gender or race 

– Using derogatory terms such as “lazy” when referring to individuals from certain backgrounds  

Nonverbal microaggressions:  

– Rolling eyes or making dismissive facial expressions during conversations 

– Refusing to make eye contact with certain individuals or groups of people based on race, gender, etc.  

– Excluding people from conversations or meetings without reason  

Systemic microaggressions:  

– Failing to provide equal opportunities to people of color or other minority groups 

– Employing discriminatory hiring practices such as only interviewing white applicants  

– Developing policies and procedures that favor certain demographics over others 

What can you do if you witness or experience microaggression? 

Microaggressive behavior can significantly impact an individual’s well-being and job satisfaction. If you witness or experience microaggressions in the workplace, there are a few things you can do to address the situation: 

If you witness a microaggression, and if you’re comfortable doing so, address the microaggression directly with the person who committed it. This can be a difficult conversation to have, but it can be an important step in raising awareness and promoting change. If you are the target of a microaggression, you can calmly but assertively explain why the behavior is offensive. In both cases, it is important to avoid escalating the situation into a larger conflict. 

If you witnessed the microaggression but are not comfortable addressing it directly with the person who committed it, you can talk to a supervisor or human resources representative. It’s important to remember that microaggressions are often subtle and may not be obvious to everyone. As such, it may be helpful to provide specific examples of what you witnessed. And if you experience frequent or severe microaggressions at work, documenting incidents can also be helpful in these cases. By taking action against microaggressions, employees can help create a more respectful and productive workplace for everyone. 

You can also choose to talk to a counselor or therapist about your experiences with microaggressions. This can be a helpful way to process your feelings and develop healthy coping mechanisms. 

What resources are available to help trainers and employees address and prevent microaggressions in the workplace 

As awareness of microaggressions grows, so does the demand for resources to help address and prevent them. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, there are many helpful books, articles, websites, and training programs that can provide valuable insights.  A recent Masterclass: Managing microaggressions offers tips for recognizing and responding to microaggressions. In addition, several organizations offer training programs on diversity and inclusion that can help employees identify and address microaggressions in the workplace. With the right resources, businesses can create a more inclusive environment that is free from microaggressions. 

Benefits of microaggression training in the workplace:

Microaggression training in the workplace can help prevent the unintentional transmission of discriminatory behaviors. By increasing awareness of potential microaggressions, employees can be more careful to avoid them. For example, they might be more aware of the way they speak to and about colleagues from different backgrounds. They might also be more likely to intervene if they see someone else behaving in a way that could be considered a microaggression.  

In addition, microaggressions can help employees feel more comfortable speaking up if they feel like they have been the victim of a microaggression. This is important because microaggressions can often be subtle and hard to identify, making it difficult for victims to speak out. By creating an environment where victims feel safe coming forward, employers can help to ensure that microaggressions are not tolerated in the workplace. 

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