What is it about?

While overt racism is condemned by many organizations, Black employees still face a host of daily verbal, behavioral and environmental slights related to their physical appearance, work ethic, integrity and more. These snubs result in job dissatisfaction and burnout, according to this study from Rice University.

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Why is it important?

Employees who face microaggressions experience significantly higher levels of job dissatisfaction and burnout due to their increased need for racism-related vigilance (mentally preparing for anticipated racism) and co-rumination (discussing feelings and venting about problems with coworkers) when compared to employees who experiences less subtle discrimination. This work documents three common types of workplace microaggressions toward Black employees in their research findings. The first was the expression of anti-Black stereotypes, including negative assumptions related to intelligence, social skills or criminality. The second was racialized role assignment, or assuming that a person’s racial identity made them automatically suited for a particular job or role, including subservient or physically-oriented roles. Racialized role assignment can also include the assumption of socioeconomic inferiority. The last type of workplace microaggression documented was interactional injustice, or negative quality of interpersonal treatment when compared to white employees in the workplace.


Although research on microaggressions (defined as commonplace verbal, behavioral or environmental slights) has gained popularity in recent years, King said work that specifically focuses on anti-Black microaggressions – especially in the workplace – is still limited. “This lack of knowledge is a real problem,” King said. “Discrimination encountered in the workplace is more complicated and difficult to manage than in other scenarios. Outside of work, an individual can remove themself from a setting and/or say something, but at work, the same individual may be afraid to speak up because of fear of retaliation, loss of a job, etc.” King and this research team hope the research will shed light on the very real and harmful discrimination that still exists in the workplace, and encourage further work and practical interventions in the area.

Danielle King
Rice University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: When thriving requires effortful surviving: Delineating manifestations and resource expenditure outcomes of microaggressions for Black employees., Journal of Applied Psychology, April 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/apl0001016.
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