Hearing demeaning remarks about yourself or those like you:
10% men 16% women
Your judgement is questioned in your area of expertise:
27% men 26% women
Needing to provide extra evidence of your competence:
16% men 31% women
It’s Death by 1,000 Papercuts
Often, the power of microaggression lies in its very ubiquity, which is why many refer to it as “death by a thousand paper cuts”.
“Thanks, sweetie,” says your male colleague when you hold open the elevator door for him. Chances are, he would not use an endearing term towards a male colleague. Chances are, too, that speaking up exposes you to denial and or further humiliation (“I was just being nice!” or “Jeez, is it that time of the month?”) In such a moment, it can be easier just to let it go.
But it is a real thing. Microaggression has a cumulative negative impact on those who experience it. Besides a pervasive sense of invalidation, these everyday indignities can lead to:
Loss of motivation and sense of purpose
An unwillingness to speak up in meetings and take professional risks
Physical and psychological impairment
It’s Time to Take Action
Remarks or misplaced humor that question a worker’s competence or belonging can reflect a larger culture of inequality. While microaggression refers to everyday, often casual, indignities macroaggression occurs on a systemic level. Macroaggression is rife at firms that have unequal pay practices or otherwise inequitable conditions.
As a leader, how can you help your firm fight to become more equitable – and more high-performing?
Train employees on implicit bias.
Often, acts of microaggression are unintentional. If workers are made aware of how their unconscious behaviors hurts others, they may be less likely to act disrespectfully.
Call out microaggression when you see it.
Ask the perpetrator to clarify, and then express your disagreement with his sentiment. This can disarm the power of microaggression.
Ensure corporate policies are equal
Take a close look at how pay, flexibility, are support are offered at your firm. Is it truly equitable?
In another era, those who engage in demeaning behavior towards others were socially rewarded. Today, microaggression is something to be called out and snuffed out.
It’s time to take a serious look at the culture of micro and macro aggression within our organizations.
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