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Understanding and Acting on Microaggressions

What are Microaggressions?

Microaggressions are actions of bias, discrimination, and ignorance that lead to exclusion.

  • Microassaults are the most overt form of microaggressions which show up in the form of slights and insults that can be verbal or behavioral

  • Microinsults assert prejudice stereotypes making presumptions about an individual’s intelligence, morality, or belonging

  • Microinvalidations are comments that deny or invalidate the lived experience of a marginalized group


What are examples of microaggressions?

To highlight a few:

  • Comments to people of color like “You’re so articulate” “You’re incredibly intimidating”

  • “Can I touch your Hair?”

  • “How can I get these perks?” Speaking to a person with a disability

  • Assuming people of color are lower-level employees, not CEOs

  • “She’s aggressive” when a woman of color is being assertive or confident

  • Imitating people’s accents

The list goes on.

What Can I Do to Acknowledge and Stop Microaggressions in my Office?

Diminishing microaggressions in the workplace starts with accountability, responsibility, and education. It is not a person of color or those that are experiencing the microaggressions constant responsibility to defend themselves. It begins with leadership.

  • Make yourself aware of what microaggressions are and how they show up

  • Educate your team

  • If you hear something, say something

  • Be an advocate for EVERYONE on your team

  • Engage training organizations like REACH to provide in depth education on creating an equitable and inclusive environment

What are the Impacts of Microaggressions?


  • Increased levels of stress

  • Lack of sleep due to imbalance of mental function

  • Violent outbursts

  • Decrease in Confidence


  • High blood pressure

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Hypertension

  • Higher engagement of unhealthy behaviors (smoking, drinking, etc)

Diminishing a person’s sense of belonging at an organization leads to a decline of productivity because of the lack of inclusion. It is a company’s responsibility to understand microaggressions, educate their staff, and hold their team accountable on inclusive language and practices.

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