The Silent Killer of Diverse Trainers: Microaggressions and Inequality

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

As a trainer of color, the obstacle of inequality is a day-to-day experience. In 2017, the workforce is the most diverse it has ever been. From age to race to gender to religion to disability, there are a plethora of signifiers that can make an employee the only “different” person in their space. As the workforce has changed, the trainer has changed as well. In the past, the role of trainer was given to a certain demographic. Now, if a company isn’t careful, archaic ideologies can push out invaluable human capital.

In my current role, I am a training consultant for a software company, and I travel around the country to train our clients. For many, traveling is an enjoyable experience. However, for a minority, the process is much different. I constantly go above and beyond the call of duty to protect myself from potential questions or verbal attacks. Microaggressions are often overlooked and explained away. This can have a debilitating effect on your energy levels. On one hand, it is important to defend yourself; however, you may be labeled as confrontational or unable to go with the flow. These jabs build up over time.


Your organization may have banners and marketing material that emphasize being an equal opportunity employer that values diversity. But the most damaging blows are silent and often go undetected. Your diverse employees may become downtrodden and stay silent about these microaggressions to maintain gainful employment. Failing to create an inclusive workplace can cause diverse employees to suffer, leading to limited employee contributions, lower customer satisfaction, and lower profits.

Here are a few ways to ensure an equal playing field for all employees:

  • Check your biases. Often when minority employees bring up an issue related to diversity and inclusion, they have to push themselves to find the courage to speak out. When grievances are overlooked, this communicates a message that they are not valuable to their organization. Ensure that you listen to your employees and make them feel heard.
  • Stamp out any seemingly harmless attitudes. Organizations that aren’t savvy in creating a welcoming environment can allow behaviors that may seem OK, but can be highly inflammatory to a diverse group. The sharing of crude or racially offensive jokes or images is never OK. No employee should feel as though their contributions mean nothing because their organization does not uphold respect as a crucial value. If you overhear an employee using offensive language, clearly communicate that that behavior is unacceptable.
  • Rally and advocate for those who are different. Organizations with a diverse workforce should ensure that there is an equally diverse management and support team. For example, if you have trainers of color, truly listen to their ideas and advocate to implement solutions to diversity problems they discuss. Management should support its diverse employees.

The more we as trainers are self-aware of our thought processes, the more dynamic we can be in truly equipping those we have conducting our training. The journey to educate yourself is highly important, and being oblivious isn’t a valid reason to allow negative behavior. All employees hold value. Their value can be lost when their environment isn’t set up to flourish. We often fear what is unknown, but being comfortable in the uncomfortable allows for true growth and servant leadership.

About the Author
Christian Ohonba is a training and motivational expert, with more than five years of training and development experience. She has worked in a variety of industries and trained a mixture of audiences, from entry level to executive level. Christian’s passion is to enable people to tap into their potential, so they can succeed in life. Christian works as an implementation consultant for a Dallas-based technology company within the healthcare industry. She is developing her own training consulting firm to use her talents to make the world a better place, one training session at a time. Contact her via LinkedIn.
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