Most of us are aware of microaggressions: subtle comments or acts of exclusion that can negatively impact the well-being of people who belong to historically marginalized groups. To go further than simply recognizing and avoiding microaggressions, try using micro validations: equally subtle but powerful actions or language that affirm and encourage your underrepresented colleagues.
- Acknowledge people’s presence. Give a nod, a warm smile, or a greeting when your colleague enters a room or a virtual meeting. In many cultures, simply addressing someone by name and making eye contact signals positive regard. And when someone is speaking, give them your full attention—put your phone away, close your laptop, and listen.
- Validate people’s identity. Refer to people in a way that’s in line with how they think of themselves. For example, call your colleagues by their preferred names. Don’t use unsolicited nicknames or anglicize names that are less common or difficult for you to pronounce. And respect people’s gender identities by being aware of—and using—their pronouns.
- Voice your appreciation for people’s contributions. Share directly with your colleagues how they’ve made important contributions, influenced decision-making, or helped build a strong team culture. Thank people for challenging the status quo.
- Hold people to high standards. Don’t shy away from assigning challenging work. Do provide the resources and developmental feedback people need to succeed.