by J. Karluk | Dec. 19, 2022 | 5 Min Read

Understanding microaggressions and biases in the workplace


Companies strive to achieve a positive work environment that promotes collaboration, career advancement, and employee well-being. Employees should feel free to express their unique sense of self without fear of how they might be perceived by their colleagues. However, despite a company’s best efforts, biases occur daily. It’s estimated that multinational companies lose up to $64 billion each year due to unconscious bias.

Implementing microaggression implicit bias training is one way to help mitigate this issue. Companies utilizing an implicit bias curriculum can address concerns head-on, as well as prevent future occurrences.

In this article, we define terms like “implicit bias” and “microaggression” to help you understand and recognize them as you build a more inclusive company culture. We’ll also answer critical questions like, “What is microaggression training?” and share how you can deploy microaggression implicit bias training at your company.

Two types of biases: conscious and unconscious bias

Bias is often broken down into two categories: conscious bias and unconscious bias (or implicit biases).

Conscious bias refers to instances when someone is fully aware of their attitude toward another group of people. Meanwhile, unconscious biases lie farther beneath the surface. The person who holds these implicit biases might not be aware of them, and they can therefore be challenging to address.

Individuals might not realize the impact that their actions have on those around them, or they may be unaware of why their interactions with certain groups of individuals are altered. Biases can lead people to favor other groups just as much as they can lead people to feel negative toward others.

Let’s look at some examples of each type of bias to help you further identify what these explicit and implicit stereotypes look like in workplace scenarios.

Conscious bias

Here are a few examples of conscious bias that companies might witness in the workplace:

  • A hiring manager sees that a candidate attended the same university as them. The hiring manager informs the company they should extend an interview to the candidate since they must be well-educated, like themselves.
  • One of your co-workers is disabled due to a chronic illness. Although you’ve worked with them in the past and haven’t had any issues, you’d like to avoid being on their team because their disability makes you feel uncomfortable.

Spotting these forms of bias can help promote equality and inclusivity for all.

Unconscious bias

Unconscious bias is more prevalent and can create a vicious cycle if not corrected. Examples that help illustrate unconscious bias include:

  • A female colleague suggests an idea in a meeting, but the idea is ignored. Later in the discussion, a male colleague offers the same idea. This time, the group decides to give it a try.
  • A new manager decides to offer paid time off for certain religious holidays. However, the manager doesn’t include holidays they’re unfamiliar with, nor are team members consulted to ensure that everyone is properly represented.

The difference between conscious and unconscious bias has less to do with the impact of the attitude and more with a person’s awareness. Both types of bias can be damaging. One survey showed that people who have experienced workplace bias were more likely to feel alienated or withhold solutions, and 80% of them wouldn’t refer people to their current employer.

It’s important to note that biases represent a person’s attitude, while microaggression refers to one’s actions. Let’s talk more about microaggressions, the impact they can have on organizational culture, and why corporate training on microaggressions is a must.

Understanding microaggressions

Researchers define microaggressions as “subtle put-downs directed towards a marginalized group which may be verbal or nonverbal.” Microaggressions are more common than people may realize. One study showed that while only 10% of participants believed they had committed a microaggression, over 60% claimed they’d witnessed or potentially witnessed such an act.

Types of microaggressions

  • Verbal: A verbal microaggression is an intentional or unintentional statement or question that is hostile, derogatory, or stigmatizing toward any marginalized group or individual.
  • Behavioral: Behavioral microaggressions communicate a message with actions that is discriminatory or otherwise insensitive to a marginalized person or group.
  • Environmental: An environmental microaggression is when a lack of representation and diversity occurs within society.

Microaggressions can negatively impact employee productivity, mental health, company culture, and overall job satisfaction. That said, companies should go to great lengths to create a positive company culture by investing in training on microaggressions and biases.

What is microaggression training?

Microaggression training helps employees unlearn toxic behaviors by becoming more aware of their thoughts and actions toward others to create a safer, more inclusive work environment. By working with a corporate training & development vendor, companies can implement microaggression implicit bias training that covers important topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Create an inclusive company culture with corporate microaggression implicit bias training

Now that you have an understanding of microaggressions and biases, it’s time to train your employees on how they undermine a positive work environment. Drive awareness and behavioral change by identifying conscious and unconscious biases through DEI training.

In partnership with The Nova Collective, Unboxed Training & Technology (Unboxed) helps organizations deploy effective DEI training that transforms company culture. Introduce microaggression implicit bias training to avoid lost productivity and promote inclusivity.

Looking for a custom approach to DEI training?

When training is relevant, employees have an easier time applying it. At Unboxed, our bite-sized, engaging custom content is contextualized within your organization’s business world. We use your terminology and your business environment to ensure training is on brand and well-received.

Request a demo of our custom training programs to learn more about how we can help you integrate a microaggression and implicit bias curriculum into your company training.

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