July 22, 2022

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are complex topics to navigate. Nonetheless, they are critical to fostering a positive workplace for all employees. 

As employers strive to create more inclusive work environments, more organizations are addressing microaggressions in the workplace. Microaggression training has become an important factor in creating a diverse workforce and preventing workplace harassment.

Although often unintentional, environmental microaggressions leave a strong impact on those experiencing it. These seemingly small experiences can compound quickly into hurt feelings and conflicts in the workplace. Microaggressions at work can affect employees’ physical health as well as their mental health.

Microaggressions – whether intentional or unintentional – create hostile work environments and contribute to a toxic culture. Understanding and being able to recognize microaggressions in the workplace is critical to managing a successful and cohesive team. 

What are Microaggressions?

Microaggressions are conscious or subconscious comments or actions that communicate negative messages to minorities and target many aspects of their identity. These comments or actions express prejudice against a marginalized group or person and slowly erode their ability to feel equal and safe in the workplace.

Although microaggressions traditionally are targeted at marginalized identity groups, they can happen to anyone at any time. They can target any aspect of someone’s identity, including their socioeconomic background, gender, race, parental status, or mental health.

While the comments or actions are not always a product of malicious intent, they nevertheless inflict insult and injury. Subgroups of microaggressions include microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations.

  • Microassaults are intentional actions or insults intended to hurt the individual. Microinsults are typically communications that convey insensitivity and rudeness about a person’s identity or heritage.
  • Microinvalidations occur when someone minimizes or negates the thoughts, feelings, or experiences of someone else.
  • Microaggressions often leave individuals feeling misunderstood, excluded, and judged, and they undermine diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the workplace.

Although some are subconscious and often unintentional, microaggressions still impact workplace culture.

3 Steps All Microaggressions Training Should Teach

Microaggressions can be subconscious and many individuals do not realize that their comments and actions constitute microaggressions. Nonetheless, the impact of microaggressions in the workplace is severe and training is a necessary component of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the workplace.

Your organization has an opportunity to reinforce the message that microaggressions are not acceptable. While eliminating microaggression is not easy, it is possible to minimize and prevent some through training. By training your employees, you can help individuals recognize the different types of microaggressions, understand different consequences of microaggressions, learn how to respond constructively to them, and identify their own biases, including implicit biases, and cultural insensitivities.

To address this behavior in your workplace, you should offer training for employees on what constitutes a microaggression. The right training will help employees recognize and support the unique backgrounds and experiences of other employees.

Conversations and training can help to mitigate and prevent these behaviors, leading to positive impacts on diversity, equity, and inclusion. But to mitigate and prevent these behaviors, your entire workforce must first be able to identify their own comments and actions that may communicate negative messages to others.

All employees should also know how to interrupt and intervene when observing this behavior in a safe and effective way. Incorporating the following three steps into your training can help prevent harassment in the workplace:

  1. Increase Awareness. Many microaggressions actually derive from a lack of awareness, leading to subconscious comments and actions. Your training should emphasize topics such as empathy, implicit biases, diversity, inclusion, and equity. Through this training, a culture of respect should be cultivated in your entire workplace
  2. Foster Safe Communication Among Employees. Leaving microaggressions in your organization unaddressed leads to a hostile and unsafe work environment. As victims are usually marginalized prior to these comments and actions, a culture of discrimination may be escalated. Your training should encourage respect and listening among your employees, and all employees in your organization should feel safe when bringing up their concerns. A helpful way to accomplish and encourage respectful and safe communication is through sensitivity training.
  3. Encourage Witnesses to be Active Bystanders. Your employees can show support and help prevent future incidents of everyday microaggressions by knowing when to apply bystander intervention techniques.

Recognizing Microaggressions

Recognizing microaggressions is an important step towards promoting inclusivity and understanding in society. Microaggressions refer to subtle, everyday acts or comments that convey derogatory or biased undertones towards marginalized groups. Often, they are unintentional and may go unnoticed by the person committing them, but they can have a profound impact on the individuals experiencing them. By becoming aware of these microaggressions and understanding their harmful effects, we can begin to challenge and disrupt the harmful narratives and stereotypes that perpetuate them. Recognizing microaggressions helps to foster a more inclusive and respectful environment, one where people from all backgrounds feel valued and heard.

Where Can You Learn More About Microaggression Training?

Microaggressions training can be an addition to any organization’s diversity, equity, and inclusion policy. Clear Law Institute offers comprehensive DEI training courses designed and led by employment lawyers and university professors who focus their research on DEI issues. Clear Law’s Microaggressions and Subtle Acts of Exclusion training course is an interactive, self-paced online training that meets ADA accessibility requirements for employees with disabilities. It can be completed on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. 

If you’d like to learn more about this training for your organization, you can request the full course preview here or contact us today at 703-372-0550 or info@clearlawinstitute.com.



Elissa Rossi