Active Voice: How to minimise microaggressions in the workplace.

Microaggressions are those indiscreet comments made unconsciously by work colleagues, which can have a huge impact on an employee’s psyche and consequently their overall job satisfaction.

They are the small slights, indignities, put-downs and insults - usually associated with race, sexuality or gender - that minorities experience in their interactions with well-intentioned individuals who are unaware that they have engaged in an offensive act or made an offensive statement.

So how can organisations take the initiative to prevent this detrimental bias and make the working environment a more comfortable place for everyone?

Here are 10 ways an organisation can raise awareness of and prevent microaggressions.

  1. Educate internal stakeholders about what their customers/clients expect to see as appropriate behaviour within the organisation.
  2. Create handbooks, case studies and scenarios to launch an internal dialogue and raise awareness of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
  3. Raise leader awareness of unacceptable behaviour e.g. through “tell me anything” sessions.
  4. Encourage leaders to share their personal stories about microaggressions and how awareness of such and behavioural change can lead to positive results.
  5. Tie the need for behavioural change against microaggressions to the bottom line.
  6. Create a safe space for people to share microaggressions (beyond HR), an inclusive environment where people feel safe to speak out and an environment that is willing to listen. For example: help employees connect with those who share their experience so that they can build allies and create a network. A network of allies can have more impact than one person speaking out.
  7. Encourage employees to take individual responsibility for calling out microaggressions and create an environment where it is safe for them to share their experience with others.
  8. Create a “Charter of Acceptable Behaviour” within the organisation that includes “microaggressive behaviour”.
  9. Utilise employee networks and give them more of a voice to help educate the employee population.
  10. Link behaviour change to Key Performance Indicators, e.g. reward employees for calling out microaggressions.