Microinequities: Snubs Your Workforce Hates

How many times have you been in a deep conversation with people when you notice they keep checking their phone? We’ve all been there – in fact, most of us are likely guilty of this ourselves. It implies that they have better things to do with their time.

Or think of a time when your boss introduced you to an important client as Jane Doe and proceeded to give a flowery, glowing description of your co-worker John Doe. This may make you feel as though you aren’t as important as your co-worker.

Maybe you just found out that a big decision has been made by your executives – only to learn you were the last to find out. You start to question whether those higher up in the food chain see you as valuable or whether they trust you.

Or a bunch of your co-workers went out to lunch and “forgot” to invite you. This may make you feel left out, like you weren’t part of the group.

Popular opinion might be that these are harmless little snubs that people should just get over, but the truth is that these microinequities — “subtle slights that sap our energy” — in the workplace can have an adverse impact on employee engagement, productivity and trust. These were some of the insights I learned during a session on microinequities, part of Sodexo’s 10th annual Diversity Business Leadership Summit on Thursday at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Think of the impact it can have on your workforce if your leaders are either unaware they’re committing microinequities or, frankly, just don’t care.

For instance, assuming a woman wouldn’t be capable of assuming a high-pressure job simply because she has kids. Or a boomer manager gritting his teeth at what he assumes is a sense of entitlement when an up-and-coming millennial inquires about promotional opportunities. Maybe it’s unintentionally focusing on an employee’s thick foreign accent instead of his capabilities.

Such behavior needs to be addressed tactfully. It might be as simple as pointing it out: “I notice you said [XYZ];” or going a step further by trying to sort it out before things get out of hand: “How about …?” or “Can I request that you …?”

The key is to be proactive in pointing out such behaviors to leaders, employees and colleagues because a lot of times such snubs aren’t malicious – though the recipients may feel like they are. If this type of behavior goes unchecked, in a way the company is giving the person the license to act however he or she wants to act.

RELATED: You may also be interested in reading “How to Avoid Microinequities” and “Bias Begins With Self-Identity.”

Tell us: What types of microinequities have you experienced either personally or in the workplace? Have you ever tried to address it? What are some do’s and don’ts in delicate situations?