The Big Impacts of Little Actions

5 min

Inclusive teams aren't just diverse. They're teams on which everyone gets a say, no matter who they are. And that is key to a company's performance.

But the path to inclusion is littered with small slights, actions, and comments that can add up to a major roadblock. They're called microaggressions.

Microaggression (n):

A subtle statement or action of discrimination against members of a marginalized group, such as a racial minority or an LGBTQ person.

According a 2014 study from Catalyst, a non-profit focused on inclusion, 40% of people who experience subtle discrimination at work (like microaggressions) downgrade their career aspirations. Many leave the workforce.

Microaggressions are subtle, and they happen all the time. They often manifest as interruptions, dismissals, offhand comments, or "well-meaning" questions.

You've probably microaggressed. Everyone does it, even if they don't know it. It doesn't mean you're a bad person, it just means you might be unaware of your own biases and power.

Microaggressions might seem like small things in a vacuum.

But according to Derald Wing Sue, the Columbia psychologist who pioneered the study of microaggressions, they're "constant, continual, and cumulative."

They add up.

A ton of feathers still weighs a ton.

Not every rude behavior is a microaggression. If someone rolls his eyes at everyone, regardless of their minority status, he's probably not microaggressing. He might just be a jerk.

But if he rolls his eyes at people in one cultural group, he's probably microaggressing.

You have an enormous opportunity to remove the roadblock of microaggressions on your team.

And there's a simple way to do it.

To reduce microaggressions on your team, first examine and address your own biases and microaggressive behavior.

Then, notice and address others' microaggressions.

Once you address your own behavior you can begin to work on increasing your team's inclusiveness.


Write down one microaggression you've done, or one that's happened to you. And don't worry, they're nothing to be ashamed of — everyone has done them.

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