Microaggressions in the workplace are sadly a common occurrence in many companies. It comes in the form of a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against individuals from a marginalized group, such as ethnic minority, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, people coming from low socioeconomic status, among others.
Microaggressions usually happen unwittingly and unintentionally. People in the workplace who commit microaggressions are often unaware that they have committed one. However, the remark is offensive to the individual receiving it – regardless if it was said jokingly or the intent was not really to offend anybody.
Types and Examples of Microaggressions in the Workplace
Microaggressions in the workplace is more widespread than you think.
Available data shows that more than 26 percent of Americans have experienced microaggression at work, while 22 percent were unsure if they have experienced microaggression in the workplace. On the other hand, 36 percent of those surveyed said they had witnessed microaggression in the workplace, mostly coming from individuals with unconscious bias. The same study also revealed that only 40 percent of the respondents were certain that they did not witness microaggression in the workplace.
How do you know if a microaggression has indeed been committed? What are the types of microaggressions most commonly committed in the workplace?
- Racial or ethnic microaggressions refer to subtle racial slights that can be offensive and hurtful. Many individuals who experienced this type of microaggression often find it extremely difficult to reply to this particular microaggression. Even though they feel hurt and insulted, the most common reaction to a racial or ethnic slur is to say nothing or make it seem like it did not happen at all. The most typical examples of racial microaggressions reveal unconscious biases of individuals who commit these microaggressions. For instance, connecting how a person looks or his level of intelligence to his ethnicity and telling the person about it is a typical example of racial microaggression.
- Microaggressions on citizenship are also common instances that happen in the workplace. Often, people in the workplace judge a co-worker’s origins based on his accent or the individual’s competency in English. Comments such as “You’re English is a bit odd. Where are you really from?” are prime examples.
- Socioeconomic microaggressions happen when people pass comments on how individuals coming from a specific socioeconomic background should look or behave. Words like “You don’t seem to come from a poor family. Why did you go to that school?” or “You don’t seem to come from that kind of neighborhood” are examples of this type of microaggression.
- Gender microaggressions are also quite common in the workplace. They reveal gender biases and false perceptions aimed at a particular orientation. Have you ever uttered “Don’t be such a sissy” or “That is so gay!” to your colleagues at work? These comments are classic examples of this type of microaggression.
There are more varied examples of microaggressions in the workplace, such as microaggression on mental health, parental status, and religious affiliation. However, these types all have one thing in common – they are detrimental to your company.
Microaggressions work against your company or any organization’s goal for equity and inclusion. It goes against the purpose of giving employees a safe and inclusive work environment and a sense of belongingness. Hence, it is paramount to proactively address microaggressions in the workplace and other forms of subtle discrimination in the workplace.
How To Prevent Microaggressions in the Workplace
There is no foolproof approach to effectively dealing with microaggressions in the workplace. Truth to say, the more your company talks about it, the higher the chance it becomes visible and palpable for employees.
Unlearning our biases could also be a tall order for many of us. Accepting criticisms and identifying and reflecting on these teachable moments often takes time and a lot of sensitivity for someone who has committed a microaggression. But making great strides towards lessening, if not eliminating, microaggression in the workplace is not at all an impossible thing to do.
Here are some guidelines and handling that you may find useful.
1. Learn how to apologize sincerely.
When you or someone you know has committed a microaggression, the worst thing to do is to act defensively. Do not treat it as a joke or as something unintended – even though it was. Instead, acknowledge the fact that you have hurt a co-worker. It may be a tall order for many, but looking at the big picture, this is the right and magnanimous thing to do.
2. Use the incident to improve yourself.
Instead of being defensive or too guilt-ridden for a long time, use the incident as a learning experience for you to know more about yourself. It is a reflective and teachable moment where you can discover your deep-seated personal biases and your perceptions about others. Be very open about these biases to yourself so you can learn from them.
3. Get to know your colleagues on a more personal level.
Remember that your organization consists of people with a common goal. However, you all come from different backgrounds. Embrace diversity and learn more about them. Get to spend time with your colleagues and get to know them more as people. It will help eliminate your unconscious biases because you are already developing a personal bond with your colleagues.
4. Educate yourself.
As you continually expose yourself to various perspectives and diverse backgrounds, complement your learning with books, films, tv shows, podcasts, and other forms of media that will help you raise more awareness about the diversity around you. This, too, will help demolish your personal biases.
5. Push for policy changes within your organization.
You can help minimize microaggressions in the workplace by introducing company-wide changes that cater to inclusivity and celebrate diversity. Push for more resources to help your company foster diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. These may come in the form of gender-neutral bathrooms, prayer and reflection rooms, or seminars about diversity and inclusivity in the workplace.
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John is sitting in an important meeting about a key presentation for a new company client. His boss is soliciting creative ideas to go with this make-or-break presentation. John sits still and does not say anything. But in his mind, he is amassed with out-of-the-box and flamboyant ideas on how to make the presentation truly one of a kind.
Yet, John remains hesitant to speak out and share his thoughts. He remains guarded amidst a male-dominated boardroom where employees often speak about baseball and cars during their free time. He knows he is different from the rest, and he does not reveal it because he is unsure if others will accept his authentic self. So, he lets the meeting pass without saying a word, only occasional nods and a curt smile occasionally.
As a boss or employer, you probably only have a vague idea about what employees like John are going through. Know that John is not an exceptional case. You have many team members like John who view themselves as different and would want to show more of their authentic selves.
Authenticity in the Workplace
Being authentic may not always be about gender orientation. Sometimes, it may also have something to do with ethnicities, cultural differences, religious beliefs, political inclinations, or even language barriers. Nevertheless, one thing remains true. Many employees find it challenging to bring their authentic selves to work.
Many factors can affect why many employees do not feel confident about showing their individuality in the workplace. These include expectations, social norms, or the company culture in general. However, as an employer, you must understand that your employees’ individuality is what they bring to their work life. Therefore, they need to feel comfortable in their own skin in work environments, so they will be engaged and compelled to create a positive impact in the workplace.
Benefits of Promoting Authenticity in the Workplace
As an employer, your focus on your team should be equally matched with your focus on individual employees. There are plenty of benefits for your company when you promote diversity in the workplace. Differences in cultures and perspectives are present at work, and employers are responsible for creating equal opportunities and promoting psychological safety to promote individuality among employees.
A study by Gartner shows that a company that promotes inclusivity and diversity in the workplace increases employee productivity by 12 percent. Moreover, employees working for companies that promote inclusivity and diversity tend to remain at their posts longer – about 20 percent higher than companies that do not actively promote it.
Here are just some of the many benefits that your company can reap by encouraging every employee to be their authentic self.
1. It champions innovation in the workplace.
Your team members are unique in their own way because they come from different backgrounds. Also, some may come from the younger generation of millennials and Gen Zs, while others may be from older generations.
This unique mix is an excellent breeding ground for innovative ideas and creative brainstorming. A diverse team’s approach to problem-solving and innovation is unbeatable and often very productive. If your employees are assured that their individuality is respected and appreciated, they will be motivated to bring out their best and deliver for your team.
2. It attracts top talent and actually gets them to stay.
Potential employees are attracted to companies with salient policies on inclusivity and diversity. When your company has significant policies to support inclusivity, job candidates are assured that they will not be working in a place that can potentially be hostile or discriminatory toward them. They will have the assurance that they will be able to fit in in no time, and they get to stay much longer in an environment that accepts who they are.
3. It improves employee productivity and overall performance.
A study from Deloitte revealed that employees of companies that champion diversity and inclusivity improve business performance. Other than skills and technical know-how, an employee’s emotional intelligence must also be nurtured by your company so that your employees remain engaged and productive. When employees are comfortable, happy, and confident, this also tends to show in their output and overall performance.
4. It improves your network and company reputation.
A diverse and inclusive workplace where employees can be their authentic selves may also be opening itself up to a larger market of potential employees or clients. Chances are, top candidates coming from the LGBTQ group may find your company an attractive place for work. Moreover, your company may have more culturally diverse customers when they discover that it has plenty of employees who can speak their language. The possibilities are endless.
5. It increases your revenue.
An interesting study revealed that companies that champion inclusivity and diversity also tend to earn more than companies that do not. Such companies generate 2.3x more cash flow per employee, 1.4x more revenue, and 120 percent more capable of hitting their revenue targets. As a result, allowing and supporting your employees to be their authentic selves may bring you more revenue and give your company more profit in the long run.
How to Support Employees in Being Their Authentic Selves
Now that you know the myriad benefits that your company can gain by promoting inclusivity and diversity, here are some practical steps on how your company can support employees to show their individuality and their authentic self:
1. Educate your team, especially your leaders.
Your team managers and leaders are vital to the success of your diversity and inclusion campaign. Ensure they are fully educated about the benefits of championing diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. They must be able to set aside their biases in favor of the success of the team as well as its individual members
2. Establish an Inclusion Body in your company.
Form a so-called Inclusion Council consisting of several persons who would influence and govern how to make this campaign a real success. This council should meet regularly for goal-setting, results evaluation, and general feedback. They must also chart practical steps and guidelines on how the campaign should be implemented in the workplace. This council should also be able to communicate goals and measure progress regularly.
3. Respect employee differences.
Have you ever thought of setting aside some space in your office as a meditation or prayer room? Consider also having potluck parties where your company’s various ethnicities and nationalities can share food that represents their culture. Listen and spend time with your employees as they share stories or anecdotes about themselves and their diverse backgrounds.
4. Hold meetings more mindfully and effectively.
During meetings, open the floor for more team members to speak up instead of solely focusing on the team leader and a few articulate team members. Acknowledge each idea thrown onto the table. Whenever you can, assign rotational speaking opportunities for every team member. When you have team members working remotely, do your best to be mindful of their local times.
WORK WITH A PARTNER STAFFING AGENCY COMMITTED TO DIVERSITY AND INCLUSIVITY.
Most of the time, the success of your diversity and inclusion (D&I) campaign begins with choosing the correct recruiting partner who understands your goal and shares your vision of making your company as diverse and inclusive as possible.
This is where the Fox Search Group comes in. Founded by a woman and with diversity and inclusivity being cornerstones of our staffing process, partnering with Fox Search Group means you have more support and assurance that your company will not only have top talent but also be as inclusive and as diverse as possible. Fox Search Group will give you the extra leg up to ensure that your employees are at their most authentic selves in the workplace. Contact us now, so we can help you build your diverse workforce.
For the longest time and up to this very day, women in tech remain very much underrepresented. This is especially true at the C-suite level, where women leaders in technology are by far in the minority.
Take, for example, Gartner’s 2021 Leadership Progression and Diversity Survey. In this survey of 3,500 employees representing 24 industries, 56 percent of women who participated in the study were frontline employees. Only 29 percent of them came from the C-Suite.
Additionally, data on the US workforce revealed that 47 percent of the active workforce were females. However, less than 28 percent of these women were in leadership positions. This huge gender gap shows that gender discrimination in the tech industry remains very much present up until now. Women in tech jobs have not only remained in the minority. They are fewer in technical roles where leadership and decision-making form part of the job description.
Women in Tech: A Real Game-Changer
As a tech company executive or hiring manager, why should you work toward minimizing the gender gap in tech? The answer is simple. Data in the last few years reveal that companies that employ more women and minorities in their C-suite ranks tend to outperform those that don’t.
Intensive research conducted by McKinsey revealed that companies with 30 percent or more female executives were highly likely to outperform firms with less than 30 percent female employees. In fact, there is a whopping 48 percent difference in performance and productivity, separating the more gender-diverse companies from those that are not.
This rather compelling study becomes even more enthralling when you factor in ethnicity in addition to gender diversity. The likelihood for outperformance tends to be higher for ethnically diverse companies versus those that are not.
Sadly, despite these glaring stats, the reality is that progress has been slow in the US and the rest of the world.
In the same McKinsey data, the percentage of female representation in the C-suite inched up a mere 5 percent from 2014 through 2019. That amounts to just one percentage point per year. This gender gap is true across many sectors but is even more magnified in the tech sector.
Famous Women in Technology
The slow progress in closing the gender gap is saddening because the tech industry has had a number of leading women whose power and mettle have made a difference in the companies they manage.
Take, for example, Jacky Wright, the Chief Digital Office of Microsoft. Under Wright’s management, the tech giant has helped businesses leverage technology to drive digital transformation. Being a female and a woman of color, Wright remains at the forefront of global digital transformation while lobbying for greater inclusivity and diversity in the tech industry.
Another fine example is YouTube CEO, Susan Wojcicki. A true woman of impact, Wojcicki led the USD1.65 billion acquisition of YouTube by Alphabet’s Google. She has run the ubiquitous video-sharing site since 2014.
From one big tech company to another, Amazon also boasts of a dedicated Vice President for Technology in the person of Mary Best Westmoreland. Beginning her career in tech as a programmer before rising through the ranks to become a senior software engineer and finally into the C-suite, her work continues to make the e-commerce giant the most prolific player in ecommerce now and in the foreseeable future.
Perhaps, one of the most familiar leading women in tech is Meta Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. As the COO of Meta Platforms for the last 14 years, Sandberg was instrumental in Facebook’s exponential revenue growth in the last several years. As the company pivots toward the Metaverse, Sandberg’s leadership to propel the firm to even greater heights cannot be overstated.
Other than tech giants, there have been more companies with powerful and influential women in their higher ranks. From Walt Disney to Space X, Oracle, and Salesforce, these women leaders in technology have truly spearheaded innovation and transformation in their respective organizations.
In fact, an optimistic projection by Deloitte Global says that the world’s top tech companies will have filled 33 percent or a third of their ranks with female employees by the end of 2022. Whether this comes to fruition or not this year, Global Diversity Awareness Month remains a vital reminder, not only to the tech sector but also to the global economy in general, of the direction we should all be taking in the workplace.
Women in Tech: Challenges and Hurdles
The Global Diversity Awareness Month also brings challenges and hurdles women face to the fore. It is also a worthy time to reflect and attempt to mitigate the reasons behind the failure of many tech companies to implement gender equality and diversity in the workplace. The truth is various mechanisms come to play that effectively prevent women from having more active participation in leadership and decision-making at work.
For instance, when you consider hiring for a C-suite position, you will realize that many successful hires in top management posts are largely based on networks. Most C-suite executives are heterosexual middle-aged white males whose network largely consists of the same demographic. This makes it challenging for women or other individuals from minority groups to penetrate the C-suite.
Another challenge is that most women have to juggle other important roles that they also need to play, such as being a homemaker or a mother. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this challenge with the closure of daycare centers and other child-rearing facilities, which greatly help working mothers.
This means that the changes that women need from the workplace transcend their home life in what could essentially be a form of systemic oppression. Women need to be provided with consistent support systems that would help them become more active players in the upper echelons of the corporate world.
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As we celebrate Global Diversity Awareness Month, companies must take more concrete steps toward realizing real diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. For women and ethnic minorities currently job hunting, you can tap into channels to help you land a job in a company that truly celebrates diversity and inclusivity. This is why you should consider partnering with The Fox Search Group.
As a female-owned organization committed to diversity, inclusivity, and equal opportunity, the company believes that race, age, and gender are no limitations. They are catalysts of innovation in any organization. Connecting reputable companies with top tech talent regardless of gender and ethnicity, the Fox Search Group’s recruiters can help you narrow that gender gap at work. Talk to one of our expert recruiters now.