The Leadership Challenge of Dealing with Microaggressions at Work


The Leadership Challenge of Dealing with Microaggressions at Work


Theodore Henderson

The Wisdom Man



The professional environment should be an arena where skills, abilities, and performance should come first and not be hampered by age, culture, gender, race, shape, and the like. However, biases often blur this delineation, whether you know what you are doing or it is a subconscious act. Dealing with microaggressions, therefore, becomes one of the concerns many employees have to deal with at work.

It could start with a comment that points to one’s minority status, which can include but not is limited to race or gender. Perhaps the comment or interaction may have been spoken without harmful intent or even awareness from the speaker. However, a regular recipient of such remarks at the workplace may develop or reinforce a feeling of being marginalized. Microaggressions could affect a worker’s self-esteem, his or her views about colleagues, and their work attitude. As a result, this will create communication difficulties and dynamics in a place of work.

However, the reality is that even in this time of globalization with all of the modern advancements and voluminous research on anthropology and social psychology that abound, microaggression still occurs. In many cases, the managers and coworkers are not aware of it; and in other cases, there is cognizance of the behavior. The actual problem is in either of these scenarios the situation will only worsen if some leadership doesn’t step forward to manage it properly. The fact remains: dealing with microaggressions at work is a part of the daily affairs for many people and should be addressed as a serious business issue by leadership.

A target of the behavior may not at first be aware, or may be magnanimous towards those who make these comments, but when he or she starts to feel uncomfortable, awkward, embarrassed, or unnerved, one has to face it and handle it. A response that will promote mutual understanding and respect is ideal.

Dealing with microaggressions at work, however, is not easy since the one offended has his or her emotions to deal with as well. The ball is in their hands. First and foremost, one has to keep calm when faced with such a situation. Reacting otherwise may complicate what could be a simple matter. Oddly enough it may instead reinforce biases against the recipient.

Secondly, one has to assess the situation using an objective perspective to be able to weigh the situation and respond appropriately. Don’t take a defensive stance as it may put you in a more disadvantaged position. Seeing oneself as a victim may develop a sense of vulnerability, which in turn may somehow empower the unknowing aggressor. On the other hand, putting forth too strong a response may allow one to wrongly develop a sense of righteousness, which could also distort the perceptions of colleagues. It is thus best to seek clarification for the meaning of a given remark.

Thirdly, focusing on the event instead of the person who said the comment would get one to focus on the problem itself and adequately address it without attacking the speaker. Taking this avenue may even be a learning experience for the unknowing aggressor and could be the beginning of an awareness campaign against microaggressions in the workplace.

Dealing with microaggressions at work may prove to be awkward, uncomfortable, and challenging. However, one has to develop his or her style of handling microaggression to be empowered. To do so requires leadership by learning about it, taking on a proactive stance, and consistently advocating for him or herself.

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About The Author

Theodore Henderson works with business owners, entrepreneurs, and corporate professionals. He is an Amazon best-selling author, a Certified Career Coach, a Certified Leadership Coach, and a Certified Social Media Security Professional Powered by CompTIA. In addition he is the author of the business program “Launching Your Great Business Idea,” as well as the author of the following books; “The Wisdom Compass”, “9 Simple Strategies to Becoming A Strong Leader” and the Security eBook “30 Smart Ways to Protect Yourself from Cyber Criminals” aimed at owners of Smartphones, Mobile Devices, and also those who have significant online activities including Social Media, financial services, etc. He is available for keynotes, seminars, and workshops. He may be reached through

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