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Unmasking Micro-aggressions

Micro-aggressions often lurk in the shadows of our professional lives. These subtle, often unintentional, behaviors can impact our personal well-being and professional confidence. Micro-aggressions have taken on various definitions, but this one, in particular, always stands out to me: “seemingly small and subtle behaviors that people engage in that cause a lot of pain to the person on the receiving end” - Dr.Tiffany Jana. While these interactions may be subtle, they can send denigrating messages to people, often leaving the victim confused, distressed, and frustrated.

For this week's Wednesday Wisdom, let's explore three scenarios to shed light on what constitutes a micro-aggression and the hidden fears associated with biased performance evaluations.

Scenario 1: The Constant Interruptions

Imagine you're in a team meeting, eagerly sharing your ideas, only to be consistently interrupted or talked over by a colleague. Is this a harmless occurrence or a micro-aggression that chips away at your confidence?


  • Harmless! It is just a communication style difference.

  • Harmful! It's a subtle form of dismissing your input.

Scenario 2: The Backhanded Compliment

For the last six weeks you have worked tirelessly to get a project across the finish line. Upon completion, your hard work is acknowledged, but the praise is accompanied by feedback that no one thought you would get this done on time. Is it a genuine compliment or a micro-aggression in disguise?

Is it REALLY a compliment?

  • it is a compliment with no malicious intent.

  • No, there is subtle undermining in the comment.

Scenario 3: The Stereotypical Assumptions

Your colleagues are always so shocked by how different your hair is styled day to day. Some ask questions, and some just stare at you endlessly. At an office function, one colleague mentions, "I've never seen someone's hair grow, get short, and then grow again all in the same week." Is this a harmless joke or a microaggression fueled by stereotypes?

Is this a harmless joke?

  • It is a harmless joke and positive intent should be assumed.

  • Microaggression. There is nothing funny, at all.

Micro-aggressions, while often unintentional, can create a toxic work environment. Constant exposure to these subtle slights can lead to frustration, impacting both mental health and overall job satisfaction. It's crucial to recognize these behaviors and foster open conversations to promote a more inclusive workplace culture.

As you navigate through the week ahead, it's important to remain mindful of not only your own actions but also those of others around you. By doing so, you can begin to recognize any unintentional micro-aggressions that may be present, whether you're on the giving or receiving end. Remember, your voice holds power in reshaping these dynamics. Use it to advocate for inclusivity and foster a more supportive and equitable atmosphere for all.

And of course, if you need help, let's talk! 

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