Note: Everyone is experiencing a lot of fear right now, consciously and unconsciously. It will be expressed through upset, anger, withdrawal, or microaggression. Learn how to handle these microaggressions because they will impact future interactions.
Microaggressions are verbal and behavioral exchanges that subtly marginalize others. (Wikipedia)
A microaggression could be as simple as refusing to say “good morning” to your co-worker. Another example is when someone publically refuses to support your promotion after privately telling you they would. These behaviors and words (or lack of) will have an emotional impact on you and others.
Microaggressions directed at you will challenge your leadership effectiveness and results when you don’t address them because they will continue if not stopped in their tracks.
While others may tell you to “just get over it,” it’s not that simple. Usually, microaggressors use race, gender, age, or other factors against you. These can be difficult to forget since they are important components of who you are. (Ascend, Harvard Business Review)
Years ago when I attempted to resolve an employee issue with George, a general manager in a manufacturing company, he told me, “You don’t know what you’re talking about since you’re a woman.” (Yes, he used those exact words.) Wow! That one hurt. While I knew he was used to doing things his own way, this mindset didn’t resolve the issue. Thankfully, there was an older and wiser human resource manager next door. He gave me great advice. “Go and visit his facility. Have him take you on a tour of the plant. Ask him good questions. Then, thank him for his time.” I did as I was coached to do. It was successful. Several years later when George retired, he insisted I review his retirement package before he would sign it!
3 Keys to Personally Move Past Microaggressions
While you cannot control microaggressions from happening to you, you can control your reactions and become resilient when faced with them.
Practice Mindful Breathing. When a microaggression first hits you, you may be in shock. Concentrate on breathing to release the disbelief and stress it just created. Breathe in for a count of 5. Pause. Exhale for a count of 10. Repeat at least twice. (This really works.)
Don’t Keep It to Yourself. The microaggressor’s words or gestures will fester and impact your own words, gestures, and mindset in any future interactions with the microaggressor and others. (No matter how objective you think you are!) Talk with your executive coach or mentor to expand your POV. Then, create an action plan to resolve it before moving forward.
Talk It Out. Since microaggressors thrive in unresolved conflicts, have the tough conversations required to deal with the issue now. (Yes, now.) These can be difficult since they will deny that they meant anything by the inappropriate comments or gestures. (They may not even know they did it.) Stick to the facts and be prepared for their circular logic. If necessary, have an objective third person involved.
4 Ways to Prevent Microaggression in Your Workplace Culture
As a leader, know there are several reasons microaggressors can be disruptive. Review your company’s hiring, coaching, training, and managing practices to prevent microaggressions.
- Improve Communication Skills. Many people only have 6th-grade reading and writing skills and are unable to adequately express themselves. Also, as the global market expands, people’s ability to adequately express themselves in different situations will be a challenge. Focused and interactive communication workshops can help bridge the gaps.
- Encourage Participation. Some people hate participating in brainstorming and decision-making processes. Others love the controversy they can cause. Remember, failure to effectively coach and manage these individuals as valuable contributors will sabotage your results.
I wasn’t surprised when a team member for a new project I would be facilitating said to me, “I don’t like the group and won’t like any of their ideas.” I knew he believed he could get the program done faster and better by doing it on his own. I encouraged him to share his concerns upfront. The team listened, then, together we worked through the team brainstorming and planning processes. After the successful conclusion of the program, he admitted the results were better than he could have achieved on his own. He shifted from being a potential microaggressor to a valuable contributor by participating.
- Hire and Coach for Job Fit. Over 70% of employees work in jobs they don’t like or have no interest in doing. This can occur at any level within a company. Many times these disengaged people become microaggressors instead of creating a solution to their career dilemma. As the leader, use a qualified job fit assessment to objectively understand why they do not fit their current jobs. Then, realign their work responsibilities for job fit.
- Address Blind Spots. Everyone has blind spots. As a leader, your words and gestures speak louder and carry more weight than if expressed by someone else. Work with your executive coach and use a qualified job fit assessment and a 360-degree feedback assessment to undercover why. Also, provide this resource to each of your team members.
Microaggressions can happen anywhere at any time. These tips will help you be prepared and prevent them from disrupting the results of your team.
©Jeannette Seibly, 2020
Jeannette Seibly is an award-winning dynamic results coach and keynote speaker. For the past 27 years, she has guided the creation of leaders to excel in achieving results. Are you ready for an unprecedented 2020? Contact Jeannette today for straight talk with dynamic results. Don’t forget to listen to On the Air with Jeannette Seibly, It’s Your Time for Success on Anchor.FM or YouTube.com.