Research perspectives

Managers the cause of microaggressions and discrimination, many employees say

Research for the charity Mental Health First Aid England has found that nearly one in three employees have experienced some form of microaggression or discrimination from their manager in the past six months.

The research was published to mark Mental Health First Aid England’s My Whole Self Day in March .

Thesurvey, covering 2,000 employees found the most common negative behaviours included comments relating to people’s age, working patterns, personal life and physical or mental health, as well as mispronouncing people’s names.

Exclusionary behaviours reported included sarcasm, employees not getting credit for the work they had done, and managers favouring some colleagues over others.

Black or black British employees (72%) were the most likely to report discriminatory or exclusionary acts from their managers, compared with 57% of Asian or Asian British workers and 47% of white British employees. Younger workers were more likely to say that they have experienced such behaviours (66% of 18 to 34-year-olds compared with 38% of 45 to 64-year-olds).

Chief executive Simon Blake said: “Everyone deserves to feel seen and valued at work. Equity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging are key to positive mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. As employers, if we create cultures where people can bring their whole self to work, without fear of judgement, all the evidence shows we will see strong performance and excellent productivity. This isn’t simply a nice to have, it is a business imperative. Diverse teams mean innovation and excellence and according to Forbes deliver 60% better results.”

The study found that discrimination is more subtle when migrant workers work remotely, as it is easier for employees to have separate meetings virtually. It is also easier for discrimination or exclusion from conversations to go unchecked.