Self Assessment

Diversity and Inclusion

What are micro-aggressions?

Often our natural biases can show up as micro-aggressions. Micro-aggressions are comments or actions that are often automatic, quick, and unintentional. They inadvertently send a message likely to be received as derogatory, negative, or even hostile, they imply superiority and can impact a person’s ability to do their job, sense of safety and general happiness.
Micro-aggressions are common in the workplace, and it will be helpful to be able to identify and reduce micro-aggressions and be able to respond productively.
For each category below, click on the action or comment you would express, and you will have a comment on each of your answers.

After being introduced to a person with an unfamiliar name:

After having heard a presentation from a person of a different ethnic group:

One of the team members is significantly older and during the planning for a new project that will involve the use of new technology:

A team member has a disability:

A cis-gender* female team member feels strongly about a specific point and voices her opinion:

*What is meant by a cis female?

Cis, short for cisgender (pronounced sis-gender, or just sis), is a term that means whatever gender you are now is the same as what was assigned for you at birth.

Sources / Resources

Marguerita Ward 04 June 2020 14 things people think are fine to say at work — but are actually racist, sexist, or offensive | Businessinsider
Brooke Parker 18 May 2022 https://www.ef.com/wwen/blog/we-are-ef/understanding-microaggressions-in-the-workplace/5/18/2022

We are not born with an innate ability to navigate diversity with ease, in fact our brains are wired to mistrust differences with others, that leads us all naturally to develop biases. Because of that, to become effective, trusted leaders within our organizations and communities, we first need to become students of culture. That is, we need to develop competency in effectively understanding, communicating with, and interacting with people whose backgrounds and culture may be different from our own.

The benefits of diversity in the workplace include faster problem-solving, better decision-making, increased innovation, employee engagement, and better financial performance. Yet diversity can only deliver on its full potential when it exists in a genuinely inclusive environment.

To help us reflect on whether we, or somebody else is expressing microaggressions, let’s ask ourselves the following questions:

Challenge our interpretation

  • Did I interpret that correctly?
  • Did she say what I think she said?

Decide whether to speak up

  • Recognise that micro-aggression is harmful.
  • Give the person  who committed the micro-aggression the benefit of the doubt and assume there was no intent to offend.

Frame the conversation in a friendly way

  • Ask a question: “Who are you referring to when you say that?” or “What do you mean?”
  • Explain how the comment or action may be interpreted by others.
  • Explain that you are not blaming the offender, only expressing how the comment or action made you or another person feel.
  • Be open to their input.
  • If the person who committed the micro-aggression denies or argues, decide whether further discussion is productive.

As Leaders

  • Recognise that micro-aggressive instances occur on a daily basis in the workplace. 
  • Foster an environment that encourages the team to openly discuss micro-aggressions. 
  • Walk the talk. When we make a micro-aggressive statement or action, admit the fault quickly and emphatically. 

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