How to defeat microaggressions in the workplace

A new research study revealed the parties most affected by microaggressions in the workplace, and solutions to tackle and remedy the situation.
By: | December 11, 2023

While microaggressions, or thinly veiled, verbal, or nonverbal slights against employees who identify as being from a marginalised or non-mainstream community, may seem small and ineffective, these remarks can make a huge and devastating impact on these employees, and recent research suggests and indicates which marginalised parties are at the receiving end of these comments in the workplace.

The recent McKinsey study released a study interviewing women in the workplace and the challenges and obstacles they face. Parties that face the most microaggressions include women especially those in traditionally marginalised communities, such as women of minority races and who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, said Alexis Krivkovich and Lareina Yee, both Senior Partners at McKinsey & Company.

78% of female respondents, for example, are more likely to self-shield at work or adjust the way they look and/or act to protect themselves, with LGBTQIA+ women 2.5 times as likely to change their appearances to fit into perceived gender roles and professionalism.

The stress caused by these dynamics can cause women who face microaggressions to be three times more likely to think about quitting, and four times as likely to be burnt out. By leaving microaggressions unchecked, the study says, companies miss out on everything women must offer and risk losing talented employees, reported Forbes.

Organisations, said Krivkovich and Yee, should take charge of reducing the number of microaggressions in the workplace, with special emphasis on managers and other leaders to exemplify and take charge of these aims. Firstly, employers should make it clear that microaggressions are not acceptable or welcome, by developing a code of conduct that articulates what supportive and respectful behaviour looks like.

READ MORE: More women willing to invest in upskilling than men in India

Next, employers should teach employees to avoid and challenge microaggressions. This means getting employees to participate in high-quality bias and ally-ship training.

Lastly, workplaces should create a workplace culture where employees can feel safe to surface microaggressions they may face.