Black History MonthDiversity & Inclusion

Black Employees Most Affected by Microaggressions in the Workplace

Black workers are experiencing microaggressions at a higher rate than any other group, which often accounts for fewer career opportunities and progression. 

By Zee Johnson 

A recent study found that one commonality many Black workers share is their experience with microaggressions in the workplace. The group cites these everyday subtle, intentional and oftentimes unintentional interactions or behaviors as having a negative impact on their career goals. 

The internal study by Praxis Labs found that compared to other demographics,15% of Black Americans ranked race-based microaggressions as a top concern at their company and the group is twice as likely as other minorities to select race-based microaggressions as a top concern.   

Elise Smith, the company’s CEO, says that microaggressions have caused major hinderances for Black workers and their future endeavours. “The data from learners on our platform reveals that Black Americans disproportionately experience race-based microaggressions in the workplace. Moreover, they believe race-based microaggressions pose barriers to their individual and their company’s success,” she says. 

The report also revealed the top areas Black employees find most important in the workplace. 

  • The chance for genuine career advancement (31%). 
  • Inclusive and transparent hiring processes (23%).  
  • Pay equity (15%). 

For companies to remedy matters like microaggressions, Smith advises to take an introspective approach to see where the issue begins and how it could be affecting their workers. “The analysis shows that Black employees need more equitable career advancement opportunities. We encourage companies to consider if there are glass ceilings for their Black employees — and how to remove the barriers that are preventing Black leaders from advancing to more senior roles in their organizations,” she says. 

Another way for organizations to address negative subtleties is by aiding Black employees with their career goals, essentially strengthening overall company comradery. “Organizations can drive improvements for their Black employees’ experience at work by bringing the full company along for the journey — we all win when our team members do their best work,” she says.  

She adds that DEI and learning and development teams can also help to spearhead changes, as their primary focus is building critical skills in the workforce; skills which ultimately foster a more equitable and inclusive culture and ensure sustainable business outcomes and resiliency within teams.  

She cites some methods these teams often employ to bolster belonging. “Learning methods like immersive and experiential learning help build empathy and provide opportunities to practice new behaviors and interventions that could create more equity and inclusion—from how to give feedback to how to de-escalate a difficult conversation,” she says. “From there, team members can apply their learning in the workplace, driving real behavior change at scale.”  

While Smith doesn’t discount Black History Month as a good time to pay extra close attention to Black workers, she thinks that this attention should be had year-round. “While Black History Month creates an opening to engage in these conversations, we advise our clients and partners to think about their Black employee’s experience all year round,” she says. “We encourage business leaders to further investigate the root causes of these inequities and hope that these inquiries invite further opportunities to embed equity and inclusion in all policies, practices, products, and services.” 

Tags: Diversity & Inclusion

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