Managers must continually monitor their organization and ask employees about their perceptions of the workplace environment. This action entices employees to talk if they are witnessing unacceptable actions or activities.
Encourage employee involvement.
Managers must encourage employees to come forward when they witness microaggression. This can be done through personal meetings, phone calls, emails, or anonymous notes.
Employees also need to know that there is an open-door policy regarding microaggressions. However, they are always welcome to inform management of problems so management can react appropriately.
Take swift action.
Managers who are made aware of workplace violence issues need to act swiftly to stop them and prevent future reoccurrences. This shows that they support their employees and want the workplace to be free of this wrongful behavior.
Organizations have a fiduciary responsibility to protect their employees, contractors, partners, or other classifications from any microaggressions that can and should be corrected, prevented, and not tolerated under their watch.
Microaggressions can cause a company’s environment to turn sour and give your employees a tremendous amount of stress to deal with, which means they will not be able to focus on their work in such a situation. Dr. Chester Pierce, a Harvard University psychiatrist, coined the term microaggression to describe seemingly trivial but offensive and demeaning conduct inflicted upon Blacks by non–Blacks during the 1970s. According to Pierce, microaggressions are “subtle, innocuous, preconscious, or unconscious degradations, and putdowns, often kinetic but capable of being verbal and kinetic.” Consistent with the term, the prefix micro represents degradations at the individual level (person-to-person).
The prefix macro, by comparison, refers to aggressions committed by society as a whole. But, of course, micro in no way symbolizes the effect or seriousness of the aggression. At the heart of a microaggression is the pessimistic assumption that the “micro-aggressor,” the person who commits a microaggression, promotes behavior that limits the victim’s humanity and value. But, as Pierce suggests, this is often manifested as a subtle snub or jab. These subtle insults are further designed to “invalidate the group identity or experiential reality” or even “relegate the marginalized group to inferior status.”
Management needs to be committed to actively encouraging employees to point out problems. If leaders do not prioritize microaggression prevention, then employees will not sense seriousness and will not come forward with problems they observe.
To effectively be involved, management needs to:
Monitor the workplace.
Here is a step-by-step process on how to deal with microaggressions:
- Make it clear that your company will never tolerate any instance of microaggressions. Clarify that for the management, one employee is just as precious as the other, and any cases of microaggression or harassment based on these topics will be investigated thoroughly, and strict action will be taken against the micro-aggressors.
- It will also be beneficial if you get a chance to inform your employees what constitutes microaggression. By being aware of what constitutes such microaggression, your team’s members will be more careful about their words and actions and thus minimize the risk of such d microaggression. Being aware also removes any excuse for such unacceptable behavior.
- Train your team to work together regardless of their background. To the extent possible, provide a working environment that encourages your team to discuss their problems with each other and come out with anything that troubles them. Make sure that they know they were chosen not because of their race or religion but because they are talented individuals with critics that make them the best at what they do. Affirm them for their talents and skills, not their religious affiliations.
- Provide a mechanism or a system for employees to be able to report microaggressions in the office when these happen. In this regard, assure your employees that they will be kept safe, and even their names will be kept anonymous when they come forward to report such incidents.
- Keep a strict check on people who repeatedly have micro-aggressive behaviours in complaints.
- If you need to interview an accused person, never do it alone. Do it in the presence of another witness, such as the HR manager.
- Record the interview and take notes. In particular, ask about the accused person’s views on race and other religions, which should give you a better idea if microaggression did happen. Then ask them where they were when the instance of harassment occurred. Ask if they have any alibi or any witnesses. If they have, check them out to determine if they substantiate the accused person’s claim to innocence.
- Similarly, interview the accuser and make notes on their report as well.
- If you find that the microaggression did occur, launch an investigation against the person and inform them that after the initial warning, this will go on their permanent record. Also, tell them of the repercussions of repeat offenses.
How to prevent further microaggression:
Once you have dealt with any existing issues, you’ll need to do everything you can to ensure that this doesn’t happen again and again. For this purpose, you will need to educate your staff and teach them that microaggression will not be tolerated in the workplace. Instead, orient them on the finer details of the incident so they may learn from it. Generalizations are often vague and don’t help the employees learn from the incident enough to prevent or avoid its recurrence.
Tell your employees that they are all humans first, and people should deal with them in the same manner.
Additionally, provide separate contact numbers and emails for anyone who feels that they are being discriminated against to give them a sense of security and confidence to report such incidences. Assure your employees that their safety is your first concern no matter who they are, so they should come up with anything that is bothering them, even if they choose to do so in private. By providing a sense of security and confidentiality, you make it easier for and encourage them to come forward and help address such incidences.
Ask your employees to discuss their apprehensions freely so that the management can understand their issues. Encourage them to discuss their problems, no matter how small, so that it can be assured that no such events occur again.
Assure all your employees that their privacy will be respected, but no microaggression or discrimination will be tolerated against anyone.
Lastly, take measures to restore the office’s professional environment as quickly as possible. Ask any employee, no matter who they are, to come up to you if they feel uncomfortable with any aspect of the office. Tell them that if they are uncomfortable talking to you, they are free to speak to the HR manager or any other official they feel can help them.
Again, the key is to encourage members of your team to come forward and report such unwanted incidents and allow you and management to address these as soon as possible.
As a leader, it is your utmost responsibility to ensure that all your employees feel safe to give their job a hundred percent. You aren’t just their boss – you’re also their defender, and they’ll look up to you for a certain level of security.
This might mean that you will have to get up close and personal with most, if not all, team members. Instead, intentionally develop good relationships with them by discussing their religions, cultures, and anything that makes them unique so that you’ll better understand who they are and make them feel you are there for them.
By reaching out to every team member and intentionally developing good relationships with them, you show them that multi-racial and multi-religious harmony is not impossible and provide an example to follow. Show the way because as the manager, you’re the leader and the best way to lead is by measure.