When you own a small business, you already have a lot on your plate. But, keeping conflicts at bay should always be a priority when you’re trying to create a peaceful and positive work environment.

Some conflicts can’t be prevented. What you can do, though, is work with your team to prevent microaggressions.

Microaggressions are subtle words and behaviors that typically target a stereotyped group or individual. They can be behavioral, environmental, or verbal. Behavioral microaggressions use actions to show an insensitivity to certain groups. Environmental microaggressions occur when there is a lack of diversity in your business, or it isn’t conducive to specific groups. Verbal microaggressions are disrespectful to a marginalized group, though they may not appear that way on the surface.

The more you learn about microaggressions, the more steps you can take to prevent them in your small business. Let’s look at how you should respond to the microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations that could be threatening your workplace.

How to Respond to Microaggressions

Once you understand what microaggressions are, you can see how/where they might be affecting your environment. Check if there is anyone in the workplace who is insensitive to someone’s:

  • Ethnicity
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Disability

If there is, or if you’ve received complaints from employees, shutting down those microaggressions immediately should be your top priority. As uncomfortable as it may be, the best approach is often to confront the microaggressor yourself.

The key is in the approach you use. Many microaggressors don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong. Talk to them in a way that focuses on a growth mindset, rather than fixing a “right now” problem. You don’t necessarily need to “discipline” them. Rather, let them know what they’re doing, why it’s wrong, and help them to see from a different perspective.

When you encourage open communication within your business, you create a more comfortable, safer environment for your employees. As a result, they’ll be more likely to come to you if they are feeling offended or hurt by microaggressions. Sometimes, employees can handle those things on their own. But, they might feel more comfortable with a manager or owner at the helm. After a while, you might notice a weakening trend of microaggressions, since more people will feel like they can speak freely about them.

What Can You Do to Prevent Microaggression in the Workplace?

Responding to microaggressions immediately is a good place to start. But, there are extra steps you can take to reduce the chances of them happening at all. One of the best ways is to establish an environment of employee wellness. Corporate wellness programs are popular across the country, and they offer benefits like:

  • Increased productivity
  • Reduced health costs for employers and employees
  • Overall healthier employees
  • Tax incentives for small businesses

Wellness programs tend to focus heavily on the physical side of things. But, mental and emotional health are just as important and should be a priority within your program. By putting a wellness program in place, your employees may feel less resentment and less stress. As a result, the entire workplace environment will be calmer, which can reduce the risk of microaggressions taking place.

Additionally, make diversity a priority within your business. Microaggressors tend to seek out marginalized groups, whether they realize it or not. Establishing a diverse workplace will make it more difficult to single out individuals for their ethnicity, background, or sexual orientation. It improves collaboration efforts and makes a more comfortable workplace, overall.

Microaggressions can be hard to spot when you don’t know what you’re looking for. Familiarize yourself with them, and take active steps to reduce and prevent them in your small business for the sake of your employees and customers.

Noah Rue is a journalist and content writer, fascinated with the intersection between global health, personal wellness, and modern technology. When he isn’t searching out his next great writing opportunity, Noah likes to shut off his devices and head to the mountains to disconnect.

Microaggressions stock image by Yuriy K/Shutterstock