Bullying and Microaggressions in the Workplace

WRITTEN August 9, 2018 Author: Rich Atkins

Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators.


It is abusive conduct that is:

  • Threatening, humiliating, or intimidating;
  • Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done; or
  • Verbal abuse.

Workplace Bullying…

  • Is driven by perpetrators’ need to control the targeted individual(s).
  • Is initiated by bullies who choose their targets, timing, location, and methods.
  • Is a set of acts of commission (doing things to others) or omission (withholding resources from others).
  • Requires consequences for the targeted individual.
  • Escalates to involve others who side with the bully, either voluntarily or through coercion.
  • Undermines legitimate business interests when bullies’ personal agendas take precedence over work itself.
  • Is akin to domestic violence at work, where the abuser is on the payroll.

Connected to Bullying are Microaggressions. This is a relatively new term that many people may not have heard of before.

Microaggressions are 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. In many cases, these hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment.

Examples take many forms:

    • An assertive female manager is labeled as a “bitch,” while her male counterpart is described as “a forceful leader.” (Hidden message: Women should be passive and allow men to be the decision makers.)
    • An Asian American, born and raised in the United States, is complimented for speaking “good English.” (Hidden message: You are not a true American. You are a perpetual foreigner in your own country.)
    • A Young person uses the term “gay” to describe a movie that she didn’t like. (Hidden message: Being gay is associated with negative and undesirable characteristics.)

Businesses spend countless hours on measures to prevent Harrassment and Sexual Harrassment in the workplace, however bullying and Microaggressive behavior occurs daily throughout businesses of all sizes.

Improving communication’s course on Workplace Professionalism delves into how to recognize and respond to Bullying and Microaggressions. In addition our classes also teach management and staff how to recognize, understand, and respond to sexual-harassment issues. It is an all-in one program that will help to create and maintain a happy and professionally compliant work environment; free from hostility and discomfort.

Other Sources:

Microagression Definition

Are You Guilty of these 12 Microaggressions

9 Things People THINK Are Fine To Say At Work

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