Microaggressions: A New Way to Define and Address These Subtle Acts of Exclusion in the Workplace

Inclusion 2019: Shifting Workplace Culture
Gain a deeper understanding of microaggressions and a more productive system for addressing these subtle acts of exclusion at work.

People are increasingly becoming aware of the term “microaggression,” though they often don't quite know what a microaggression is, why it is a problem, or what to do about it. Leaders, managers, and employees often commit these microaggressions in their efforts to bond, to be funny, to show familiarity, or to show curiosity. But microaggressions contribute to feelings of exclusion from the workplace by marginalized people (in terms of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, age, ability, etc.), affecting internal workplace culture and impacting employees interacting with customers. But the term itself can be off-putting. Those committing the microaggression get defensive. (“I wasn't being aggressive!”). Those who were affected feel minimized. (“It doesn’t feel ‘micro’ to me!”) This session will provide a way forward—a new term, a deeper understanding, and a more productive way for addressing these subtle acts of exclusion.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand thoroughly why microaggressions threaten workplace inclusion.
  • Learn why using the term “subtle act of exclusion” is more productive than the term “microaggression” for building awareness and increasing buy-in.
  • Practice a helpful system in which all those involved in microaggression situations know how to respond when they happen.
  • Visualize how addressing microaggressions can form part of a diversity and inclusion strategy to increase communication and trust around sensitive issues in the workplace.
Date(s) & Time(s): 
Monday, October 28, 2019 - 10:15am to 11:45am

Michael Baran


Dr. Michael Baran is the CEO of Iris Inclusion, a global diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) firm. Dr. Baran draws on his own social science research to inform his DEI speaking engagements, writings, consulting, leadership development, and eLearning. After teaching at Harvard University, he has been supporting DEI in organizations for 20 years. His work has been covered in the New York Times, BBC, Forbes, CNN, NPR, and more.

His recent book, Subtle Acts of Exclusion, was named by Forbes as one of “The 11 Books To Read To Be A More Inclusive Leader” and has won several awards.

Salon E (Third Floor)
Amount of Credit: 
Credit Type: 
Session Type: 
Concurrent Session
Global & Cultural Effectiveness
Relationship Management
Intended Audience: 
Intermediate (Fostering DEI)
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