Ready to chat with one of our experts?

What Are Microaggressions?

Evelyn Carter, PhD
| President
Evelyn is a social psychologist and DEI expert focused on evolving and advancing the practice of diversity, equity, and inclusion.


This blog is the first in a series based on Paradigm Reach microlearnings focused on Microaggressions Training. In this blog, we will dive into what microaggressions are and the importance of supporting those who experience these types of interactions.


Creating an inclusive work environment, a place where employees feel they belong and are treated fairly, requires looking at both the subtle and overt signals that may communicate that people don’t belong or their differences are not accepted.

What are Microaggressions?

Microaggressions — brief interactions that signal to a person that they are devalued or stand out disfavorably because of their identity — are one example of such a signal. The challenge is that microaggressions are often very subtle. Experiencing these interactions may create questions that loom large in a person’s mind like, “Am I overreacting?” or “Maybe it’s not a big deal, but if it isn’t, why do I feel this way?” Over time, these unresolved questions can harm one’s mental and physical health. Microaggressions have a negative impact on both individuals and overall company culture, which is why it’s important to understand how they show up, how to address them when they happen, and how to prevent them.

How Microaggressions Undermine Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

According to our 2021 research, 72% of U.S. employees want their employers to invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Employees want reassurance that they’re working for an organization that supports them.

That same research showed us that while people are looking for inclusive work environments, many are not finding them. Nearly half of respondents (49%) said they witnessed or experienced bias or racial discrimination at work, and 20% said they experienced microaggressions. It’s important to recognize how common these interactions are, and how much they can compromise an organization’s efforts to foster an environment where all employees feel accepted, valued, and included. 

Examples of Microaggressions

A recent survey of over 4,000 U.S. workers provided a range of microaggressions people had experienced in the workplace:


  • An individual being the only woman in a meeting and being asked to take notes
  • Coworkers describing behaviors of Black people negatively, but telling someone that they were an exception because they were the “good kind.”
  • An individual being told they reminded someone of their grandmother
  • Someone asked, “Where are you from?” followed by, “Where are you really from?”


These are just a few examples, but common themes of microaggressions include everything from being relegated to a lower status or being described as exempt from otherwise harmful or negative stereotypes.

How Microaggressions Impact Well-Being and How to Respond if You’re a Target, Bystander, or Perpetrator 

Being the target of a microaggression at work can negatively impact the ways someone perceives themself, and can affect their productivity and engagement. For tips on how to respond, read our blog “Responding to Microaggressions: As a Target.”


Those who witness microaggressions might question the inclusivity of their workplace and are often left wondering how they could of helped or what they should do in the future. For tips, read our blog “Responding to Microaggressions: As a Bystander.”


Finally, someone who realized they committed a microaggression or is called out by a colleague may feel defensive, embarrassed, or ashamed. For tips on how to move past those feelings and make amends to the person harmed, read our blog “Responding to Microaggressions: As a Perpetrator.”

Engage Further With Paradigm Reach

The resources linked above are a good starting point, but you don’t have to stop there if you’re interested in building diversity, equity, and inclusion at your workplace. Learn more about microaggressions and many other relevant daily topics with our resources available on


November 28, 2022

If you want to learn more about preventing microaggressions in the workplace, contact us today!