Total: $0

Sort Articles:

X Clear Search Results


Written by: Misty Smalley
Published: October 2013

In a recent conversation, a good friend mentioned that she and her team had attended a workshop regarding Microaggression. She and I are both Human Resources managers, she is based in Tucson and I am here in Maine, but the term was not one with which I was familiar. Intrigued, I let my fingers do the walking right to the keyboard where Wikipedia and other sources got me well-grounded on the concept.

What is Microaggression?

Wikipedia explains, "Microaggression is the idea that specific interactions between those of different races, cultures or genders can be interpreted as small acts of mostly non-physical aggression, coined by Chester M. Pierce in 1970".

1970? This term, microaggression, has been around for nearly 44 years and I had never heard of it before. That said, however, the concept is nothing new to me or most other people. When I read the definition, examples of behaviors and comments I have witnessed, but have perhaps had no specific word to assign to them, instantly came to mind. They can now be assigned to the word microaggression.

In a 2010 article in Psychology Today, Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D. and David Rivera, M.S. further explained microaggression as "the everyday verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights, snubs or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership."

One example in the Sue/Rivera article that depicts the definition particularly well describes a situation in which an Asian American man, born and raised in the United States, receives a compliment on how well he speaks English. English is clearly his first and only language, but the aggressor has made an assumption based on the man's appearance, that he is from Asia. The aggressor may or may not be intentionally marginalizing the man but in this, and most other situations, it is impossible to say.

It appears that the more recent definition from Sue/Rivera also speaks to a broader spectrum of microaggression targets, perhaps due to the global community that is now our reality. We move freely between countries and communicate easily and quickly through email and social media. There are as many women in the workforce as men. Equality in all forms is openly discussed and advanced. Generally, overt prejudice against any population is less tolerated than in 1970.

In our current heightened awareness, perhaps the term microaggression is interchangeable with other terms, and so has not made it all the way around the horn. Perhaps we still know it as intolerance, closed-mindedness, prejudice, workplace violence. Perhaps the concept is so large and easily identifiable that one word just isn't enough.

If you have examples or would like to send comments or feedback on this subject, please feel free to comment. Thanks for reading!

Misty Smalley

Misty Smalley

Misty Smalley is an HR leader and writer who actively pursues interests in executive coaching, organizational development and training design. A life-long learner, she joyfully strives to help others to explore the meaning in their own journeys, then to express it authentically.