5 Micro-Aggressions That Break Synergy in Agile Teams

5-micro-aggressions-break-synergy-agile-teamsAs we’ve revealed in a previous article How To Recognize Team Synergy in Agile Teams, a team builds up its stages of forming, storming, norming and performing over time. It is in every team-member’s best interests to keep the synergy in agile teams at a “performing” level in order to carry out the tasks and deliverables set out by the project stakeholders. But as one of Niven’s laws states “It is easier to destroy than to create.” With that we’ve identified some common Micro-Aggressions that can easily destroy the team dynamic that took so much time to build up.

Micro-Aggression as described by psychologytoday.com, are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.

Below are some examples of common micro-aggressions that you may find the workplace, and should take action to diffuse if they become increasingly used by team members. As you may notice there are many possible situations where dialog can take the form of joking, or sarcasm in a way that the target may even smile, laugh or shrug. However, given that these statements reinforce stereotype myths they can actually be considered as micro-aggressions to some degree:

1 – Saying someone is too much of another type of ethnicity to be the one they currently are a part of

This could be in reference to one’s physical skin color, dietary or cultural preferences, or sexual preferences. Similar expressions can also present themselves when someone tells another “I didn’t know that [someone of a certain ethnicity] would like a certain food or activity [from another ethnicity].”

2 – Over-complimenting someone because it was a surprise for someone of their gender, status or ethnicity

There may be instances when someone is given a promotion, or new assignment that someone else may have wanted. Similar situations can present themselves when someone of a certain gender takes on a position that the opposite gender would typically be “expected” to have. An example of what can be said in this type of situation is “who would have thought you’d make it to the Senior Director position after just being a Manager.”

3 – Recipient of confidential information is told that someone of their status or position would not typically receive it

This situation will typically present itself when someone in a senior-level or superior position tells someone who reports to them, that they were lucky to have that “secret” information, as someone at their “level” wouldn’t typically be a privileged recipient.

4 – Being told a seemingly positive remark in a sarcastic or ambiguously negative tone

There are numerous times throughout the day where team members may tell their colleagues short and seemingly positive remarks like “Good Luck!,” “That should be fun!,” or “Yay!.” As you may notice, those expressions can be said in a truly genuine positive light, but they can also be said in a totally opposite regard.

5 – Being asked the big question “What are you?”

This question is clearly ambiguous and takes the inquiry too far to be comfortable, and it presents an entire list of potential issues that can make the target feel inferior. The “what” is probably meant to probe the target’s ethnic background, but it can certainly be taken to ask about someone’s sexual preference, gender, or in some circles their social status. The point here is that the target can be taken to be inferior to the one asking the question.

When questions of a micro-aggressive nature are asked, it’s important to realize that the person asking the question may not realize they were being an aggressor to begin with. We all have a part to play in diffusing these types of micro-aggressions, starting with ourselves. This is to say that we all may fall into the trap of asking or partaking in a micro-aggressive statement and may not have realized, intentionally or not, that we may have made someone a target in the process. Reading up or talking about the topic in the workplace may be a good first start to identifying the appropriate types of dialog to have around teams with diverse backgrounds.

[Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

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