Microvalidations are small, positive actions on the opposite end of the spectrum from microaggressions – they encourage and affirm. Image Credit: Pexels/Fauxels

In toxic workplaces, microaggressions can take a toll on employees. These subtle acts of exclusion can negatively impact development, hinder problem-solving, and affect emotional wellbeing. So, what can be done?

Click start to play today’s Spell It, where we take into consideration how employees ‘feel’ when they are dismissed, alienated or stigmatised.

One great tool to counteract its effects, according to a May 2023 report in the US-based business news website Harvard Business Review (HBR), is microvalidation. These are small, positive actions on the opposite end of the spectrum from microaggressions – they encourage and affirm.

The idea is that it’s not enough to just eliminate negative actions or behaviours; positive interactions must be encouraged. According to a December 2022 study by the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, microvalidations are just as subtle as their negative counterparts but equally powerful.

Here are some microvalidations you can use to affirm your colleagues, according to the HBR report:

1. Acknowledge presence

Numerous studies show that women of all racial/ethnic backgrounds, along with Black or brown men are treated as people with lower status – in meetings they are often greeted with silence, not given full attention or are interrupted. Instead, use microvalidations to acknowledge their presence. According to a February 2022 report published by the World Economic Forum, just greeting someone by name and making eye contact with them signals positive regard.

2. Validate identity

Have you been in a situation where someone gave a colleague a nickname because they found their name difficult to pronounce? Using unsolicited names or anglicized names without permission is a common microaggression. Instead, call them by their preferred names. Be open and ready to learn about people’s backgrounds and identities, and acknowledge their experiences rather than trying to mould them into something that’s more comfortable for you.

3. Voice appreciation

It’s important to share directly with your colleagues, how they’ve made important contributions to tasks, influenced decision-making processes, or helped to build continuity within a team. Highlighting their achievements to other members of the organisation – whether the person is present or not – is another way to offer microvalidation. Such behaviours lead to authentic engagement, job satisfaction and performance.

Do you try to embrace a positive culture at work, full of microvalidations? Play today’s Spell It and tell us at games@gulfnews.com.