What Are Microaggressions in the Workplace? How to Stop Them

Microaggressions in the workplace are the little things you say and do that make people feel like they don’t belong. They’re the comments that are meant to be compliments, but end up being offensive. They’re the actions you take that make people feel like they have to perform in a certain way to get approval from you.

It’s important to understand how these seemingly small behaviors can add up over time and ultimately create a culture of exclusion. A person who is constantly experiencing microaggressions may start to feel like they don’t fit in or belong, which can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

What Are Microaggressions in the workplace?

Microaggressions are the subtle, everyday insults and slights that minorities experience at the hands of the majority. They are often unintentional and can be difficult to pinpoint. But if you know what to look for, you’ll be able to stop microaggressions from hurting your relationships with family, coworkers, and friends.

Microaggressions can be as overt as making racist jokes, or as subtle as asking someone where they’re from—a question that implies they’re foreign or unfamiliar with the area in which they live.

These daily slights can take place between strangers or friends; they can happen in person or online; they might be intentional or accidental; but regardless of how they occur, they have real consequences for individuals and communities alike. Microaggressions are part of why people sometimes feel unsafe taking public transportation or walking down the street alone at night—and why some people experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues related to experiences of discrimination.

What You Need to Know About Microaggressions

Microaggressions in the workplace are comments or actions that subtly put down a person based on their identity. They can be as overt as making racist jokes, or as subtle as asking someone where they’re from—a question that implies they’re foreign or unfamiliar with the area in which they live.

The term “microaggression” was coined by psychiatrist Chester M. Pierce in 1970; he used it to describe the small yet profound ways people can be discriminated against based on their race or ethnicity. But today, microaggressions refer to any comment or action that is meant to marginalize a person based on their identity—including gender identity, sexuality, age group (e.g., youth), disability status (e.g., deafness), religious affiliation (e.g., atheism), socioeconomic status (e.g., poverty), etc.

Microaggressions are a form of subtle discrimination that can be incredibly damaging to the mental health of marginalized groups. 

What are examples of microaggressions in the workplace?

We would list a few microaggression examples in the workplace regarding some of the groups affected. 

  • Microaggressions targeted at racism: “You don’t sound like a black person”, “Your hair looks nothing like that of a black girl”, “I had no idea that you were this intelligent”, etc. 
  • Microaggressions targeted at ageism: “You might not know this trend but..”, “you look too young to be in this role”, etc.
  • Microaggressions targeted at religion: Assigning only tasks related to a person’s religion meanwhile other employees are given a vast majority of tasks to handle.
  • Microaggressions targeted at disability status: Believing that people with disabilities have nothing more to offer than the bare minimum.

How Do You Identify Microaggressions?

Microaggressions in the workplace come from assumptions about someone’s identity — usually based on their race, or gender identity/expression.

Microaggressions are the everyday, subtle ways in which we unconsciously marginalize others. They can be intentional or unintentional, and they can make people feel uncomfortable, alienated, or even unsafe. But they’re not always easy to spot. So here’s a quick guide on how to identify microaggressions and stop them in their tracks.

Microaggressions are the small, everyday actions or comments that can make people feel like they don’t belong. They’re often unintentional, but they still have a huge impact on those who experience them.

If you’re new to the concept, microaggressions at work can be hard to identify—but we’re here to help! Here are some signs that you might be experiencing microaggressions:

  • You start to feel like you don’t belong in your workplace.
  • You start to question your own identity. 
  • You suddenly start to feel depressed. 
  • You struggle to communicate with the people around you because of the fear of not being listened to. 

How Do You Stop Microaggression?

People who practice microaggressions at work often don’t realize what they’re doing is hurtful, they just think it’s normal. So how to deal with microaggressions at work? The best way is for us all — the people who are on the receiving end of microaggressions — to call out those behaviors when we see them happening so we can help educate others about what constitutes an offensive comment or action. That way, we can all work together toward a more inclusive society where everyone feels safe and welcome.


Microaggression in the workplace is an everyday occurrence that makes someone feel excluded, undervalued, or otherwise marginalized based on their identity. It’s like a tiny little punch in the gut — something that happens so often that it becomes “normal” and is often missed by the people who perpetuate it. But when something happens over and over again, it adds up to create an environment where certain groups of people don’t feel safe or welcome. And, we need to learn and stop these microaggression examples from becoming a standard reality. 

Anna Verasai
Anna Versai is a Team Writer at The HR Digest; she covers topics related to Recruitment, Workplace Culture, Interview Tips, Employee Benefits, HR News and HR Leadership. She also writes for Technowize, providing her views on the Upcoming Technology, Product Reviews, and the latest apps and softwares.

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