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Could You Be Missing Racism & Bias Indicators in Your Team?

Aug 19, 2020


  • EDITORIAL TEAM Talent Management Institute
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6 out of 10 employees would consider leaving if you have an emotionally unsafe workplace.

Microaggressions have emerged as a big contributor to emotional vulnerability among employees.

Derald Wing Sue, a psychologist, defines them as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership.”

These innocuous-looking interactions can lead to organization-wide damages.They can hamper your employer brand image too.

In a survey conducted by SurveyMonkey,

  • 68% of Americans said it is a serious problem
  • 26% of respondents were certain they faced a microaggression at work
  • 22% were unsure

The good news is:

Talent leaders can keep microaggressions at bay.

What microaggressions look like

Disguised as ordinary, everyday conversations, microaggressions can be difficult to spot. The forms can be extremely subtle and can even be unintended: putting a choice of male or female in basic forms, limiting relationship status to married or single, or asking a woman applicant if she plans to have children soon.

In the words of the victims:

“There were two black women working in production on the broadcast — myself and another. We both held the lowest-ranking positions on staff. Not uncommon in most predominantly white institutions, most of our white colleagues had trouble keeping our names straight. As a joke, they began to call us We-Dra – short for Whitney and Deidra.”

“A senior partner asked to ‘touch my hair’ in order to confirm it was ‘all mine.’”

“An older male colleague interrupted me in a meeting and said, ‘now young lady…’, and then told me how I was incorrect in his opinion.”

Common Microaggressions

From telling an older employee: “Hold-on Grandpa, let me show you how that works” to taunting a gay coworker: “You’re being paranoid”, microaggressions can take many forms. Women and minorities are in the line of fire here.

Racist Slights

Gender Slights

Intended Slights

    Then some are intended to offend the receiver. Here are a few examples:

  • “Indian giver!”
  • “That’s so gay.”
  • “She welshed on the bet.”
  • “I jewed him down.”
  • “That’s so White of you.”
  • “You people …”
  • “We got gypped.”

How Talent Managers Can Address Microaggression

In the survey conducted by SurveyMonkey, respondents have shown how they would like leaders to address microaggressions. While most – 67 percent – were ok with an apology, 9 percent said that the extent of offense demanded termination.

Parting Thoughts:

A study of 1,000 adults conducted by the Center for Generational Kinetics and Ultimate Software said lack of emotional safety is the prime reason why employees leave.

Over the years, the face of racism and bias has changed. Outwardly it may not be the same as what our parents or grandparents faced, but inside the stonewall of recent protests like Black Lives Matter and growing public awareness, it has become subtler.

With growing diversity at the workplace, communication and emotional safety of employees become critical too.

Microaggressions undermine people’s successes and inhibit them from doing their best work or remaining optimally productive.

How do you plan to address them?

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