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HR Labs

Feb 17, 2021

Though companies have been taking steps to address overt racism at work, microaggressions present a wholly different challenge. In this episode, Duane speaks to Dr. Ella Washington — an organizational psychology professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and founder of DEI strategy and consulting agency Ellavate Solutions — about microaggressions in the workplace, their damaging impact on building a culture of belonging, and how and when to respond to them.

What is a microaggression?

According to Dr. Washington, microaggressions are “the everyday subtle, unintentional — but sometimes intentional — interactions or behaviors that communicate some type of bias towards a historically marginalized group.”

They are the seemingly innocuous things people say that are actually racist, sexist, or offensive.

Dealing with microaggressions at work

“Microaggressions, for so long, have been thought of as acceptable forms of comedy. Someone says an offhanded joke, and people laugh and kind of keep going. People don’t realize they’re being offensive,” explains Dr. Washington.

Trying to fully “solve” or “eliminate” microaggressions at work is a righteous but unattainable goal. Having an anti-discrimination policy at work isn’t enough. As Duane and Dr. Washington discuss, HR teams and leaders alike need to be consistent in handling complaints and providing training on how to identify and address microaggressions.

Tune into this episode to learn how HR professionals can be the catalyst for creating a work environment where people feel comfortable speaking up and calling out micro (and not so micro) aggressions.

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