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Raj Ramanandi Jul 21, 2023 2:32:51 PM 6 min read

Microagressions: Not micro in impact! Video Transcript

This is the transcript to a primer video by InChorus co-founder, Raj Ramanandi, about microaggressions in which we explore the concept of unconscious bias, real-world examples of biases affecting different aspects of our lives, and the harmful effects of microaggressions. Learn how these seemingly minor acts of discrimination can create constant stress and anxiety, affecting mental health and productivity. Discover what you can do today to deal with and prevent microaggressions in your work. Let's tackle this important issue together! 🌟

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Hi, I'm Raj, a co-founder of InChorus. We help our clients create more inclusive workplaces where everyone can thrive and do their best work.
Welcome to this InChorus Primer on the topic of microaggressions. We're glad you joined us for this bite-sized session where we have three key objectives.
Firstly to introduce or refresh on the key concepts of bias and what microaggressions are so that we all have a shared language on this topic.
Secondly to explore the impact that non-inclusive behaviours have and understand that microaggressions are not micro in impact. And finally, look at what you can do today to deal with and prevent microaggressions in your work.
So let's kick off!
Unconscious or implicit bias is a term that describes the associations we hold outside our conscious awareness and control.
Unconscious bias affects everyone. Did you know that your brain subconsciously processes around 11 million pieces of information per second? But only 40 bits of information consciously.
This has been a fantastic evolutionary trait which once upon a time allowed your ancestors to make quick life or death decisions when faced with a threat like 'is that tiger going to eat me'.
However today we need to be more cautious and these biases often have negative consequences. The shortcuts that our brains take are what we often hear referred to as unconscious bias, the beliefs and attitudes that operate outside of someone's control.
In this way it's important to understand that we are all biased and that unconscious biases can often be in contrast with beliefs and values we think we hold.
You might not even be aware of these biases or that they are affecting your behaviours. We do know that it's possible to become more aware of biases we hold and then to begin to correct them.
So it's not enough to dismiss unconscious bias as something you have no control of. Unconscious bias as a consequence has some big implications.
Now we're going to look at a couple of real world examples to explore how biases are impacting different aspects of our lives.
For example, did you know that women in Britain are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed following a heart attack because heart failure trials generally use male participants and the symptoms are actually different.
Or that speech recognition software was initially trained on recordings of male voices. So Siri didn't recognize women and apparently Google's version is 70% more likely to understand men.
Now unsurprisingly these biases play out in the workplace too. For example, a study in Britain found that job seekers with white sounding names could expect one positive response for every nine applications. Whereas it took individuals with Asian or African sounding names 16 CVs. So it's really important to actively consider situations you find yourself in.
So we're now going to look at microaggressions also called micro-incivilities, non-inclusive behaviors or unacceptable behaviors which are sometimes a symptom of conscious or unconscious bias, or just born from a lack of sensitivity or respect. 
Microaggressions are brief, subtle and often unintentional acts of discrimination against members of a particular group. They might include offhand comments, gestures or actions that convey negative stereotypes or assumptions. Workplace microaggressions are subtle acts or comments that can create a hostile or uncomfortable environment in the workplace, particularly for marginalised groups.
Some examples might be:
  • 'You got the promotion because of diversity quotas'
  • You speak English so well, where did you learn it?
  • 'You're so emotional, maybe you're not cut out for this job'
  • Or ‘You're too young to understand'
  • Or ‘You're too aggressive or assertive, you should tone it down'.
  • Or, ‘You're a mother, you, how do you manage work and your family?’ 
Now, these are a few examples that highlight the importance of fostering an inclusive and respectful workplace, where everyone feels valued and can thrive without these kinds of comments and, as I say, negative microaggressions.
These little acts of discrimination can be really harmful. They happen more often than you might think. Think of it like a paper cut. One cut might not hurt too much, but if you keep getting them over and over again, it's going to start to really hurt.
In the same vein, each individual microagression may seem minor and insignificant, but when they happen repeatedly they can create a sense of constant stress and anxiety, as people have to constantly be on guard with these types of comments and behaviours.
Now, as we see, microaggressions are not micro in impact. It's sometimes easy for individuals to dismiss these kinds of behaviours and comments, and to frame them as not a big deal, to make out that it's your fault.
Other research shows that these experiences can have a huge impact, one that can in some cases be as bad, or even worse, than the distress caused by more overt instances of harassment or discrimination.
The reason for this has been explained by the increased frequency at which these instances often occur, and the difference between the frequency around them that can cause individuals to doubt themselves or fail to seek help.
In this way, there's a clear_link between individuals experiencing microaggressions and poor mental health, which in turn affects engagement and productivity.
In fact, 78% of individuals who experience these kinds of behaviors lower their commitment to their organization. Now, what you see on this slide are a series of things that are small but mighty and remember that includes your voice. This is why it's important to create a safe, inclusive work environment where individuals feel comfortable speaking up about microaggressions or non-inclusive behaviors.
We need to encourage open dialogue, active listening and empathy to foster a culture of respect and understanding and this is achieved through education and training programs and to raise awareness about these topics. And it's important to provide tools for reporting and addressing them. But in order to do this, we ALL have a role to pay.
It's important to have clear reporting mechanisms in place to address microaggressions. Employees should feel empowered to report incidents without fear of retaliation and organizations should take appropriate actions to investigate and address such behavior. So, as I say, it's important to have these reporting mechanisms in place to address microaggressions. Employees need to feel empowered. And this is precisely what InChorus offers. As a trusted independent third party, we ensure employees remain safe, that they are secure and their reports are secure and anonymous.

Raj Ramanandi

Raj is Co-CEO and Founder of InChorus Group