What are microagressions?

Microagressions are harmful small, everyday phrases or actions that are targeted at a person based on their membership in a marginalized group. These actions are often not explicitly about someone’s identity, but implicitly insult and other someone’s race, gender, sexual orientation or disability status.

Microagressions are harmful small, everyday phrases or actions that are targeted at a person based on their membership in a marginalized group.

What’s an example of a microaggression?

  • Someone mistaking an employee for another employee of the same minority racial group.

  • A coworker saying someone “must be in the wrong room,” if they don’t look exactly like everyone else attending the meeting.

  • Someone commenting on the English-speaking abilities of someone from a minority racial group.

  • A person subconsciously gravitating toward seats in a meeting next to people who look like them, not even realizing the seats next to someone with a physical disability, or of a different race, are being taken last.

How do microaggressions affect people at work?

They can make people feel alienated, unsupported, vulnerable, disrespected, uncomfortable, and hurt. Microaggressions often reinforce a message to people from underrepresented groups of, “You are not one of us. You do not belong.”

What can you do if you’ve experienced a microaggression at work?

Listen to yourself and your feelings of unease, and find support. A microaggression can be hurtful and shocking. It can be helpful to discuss the issue with peers who are members of your group, or peers you feel comfortable with. You can also reach out to a sounding board like Empower Work if you prefer to talk to a peer counselor immediately and anonymously.

What can you do if you witness a microaggression?

Be an ally and don’t speak for another person’s experience. Pull your coworker aside and let them know why what they did might have offended people.

What can you do if you commit a microaggression?

Be humble. Even if you weren’t intentionally trying to inflict injury, you did, and that needs to be acknowledged. Take the time to listen and learn about what you did and how to prevent it in the future.

If you’ve experienced, committed, or seen microaggressions at work, you’re not alone. Text 510-674-1414 to get in touch with a trained peer counselor immediately and anonymously. Talk through the situation and explore ways forward. Support is just a text away.




Empower Work Team