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HR Labs, DEIB Edition: Dr. Ella Washington on Microaggressions in the Workplace

Cornerstone Editors

We’re thrilled to announce the third season of HR Labs, a podcast that explores how to create a better employee experience for all of your people. This season is hosted by Cornerstone’s Chief Learning Officer and VP of Organizational Effectiveness Jeff Miller and Chief Diversity Officer Duane La Bom. Through conversations with change-makers, activists, executives and experts, they’ll explore strategies for taking diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives from intention to action. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.

Motivated by the social justice movements of the past summer, workplaces in the U.S. are reprioritizing and conversations about race, equality, diversity and inclusion. For Dr. Ella Washington, an organizational psychologist, professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and founder of DEI strategy and consulting agency Ellavate Solutions, these conversations are her life’s work.

On this week’s episode of HR Labs, Duane sat down with Dr. Washington to discuss strategies for companies to truly drive change around DEIB in the workplace. Dr. Washington said that while she’s encouraged by the number of organizations genuinely leaning into these conversations, there’s still work to be done—and addressing microaggressions is one key area for improvement.

Listen to the episode here: Apple — Spotify

Microaggressions in the Workplace

Microaggressions are incidents in which someone makes an offensive statement or asks an insensitive question, whether accidentally or on purpose. ’I don’t see color’ or ’You’re so articulate’ are a few examples Dr. Washington says are common in the workplace.

"Microaggressions are these small things that happen everyday, and people need support in how to deal with them," she said.

In addition to discussing other examples, Duane and Dr. Washington also explored actionable strategies for employees and employers alike to appropriately respond to microaggressions. Dr. Washington said the goal isn’t necessarily to eliminate microaggressions from the workplace—but instead, to build a culture where addressing them is the norm.

"Even if you talk about these topics all day every day like I do, you still always have something to learn," said Dr. Washington. Microaggressions might not be eliminated, but employees, leadership and HR teams all have a role to play in making sure victims of microaggressions feel empowered to respond.

Subscribe to HR Labs and never miss a conversation about strategies for seeing real impact from your DEI&B efforts. Check back with us on March 3 to hear Jeff’s conversation with fair pay icon Lilly Ledbetter.

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