“If Another Person Says, ‘You’re So Articulate,’ So Help Me”

Microaggressions Experienced By Employees of Human Service Agencies


  • Berg Miller Buffalo State College
  • Annahita Ball University at Buffalo




microaggressions, intersectionality, organizations, women of color, non-binary people


Few studies have examined the nature of microaggressions experienced by employees of human service agencies. This exploratory study identified the types of microaggressions that women and non-binary people of color experience within their agency settings. Narrative data were collected using a web survey. The survey consisted of two instruments, both developed by the researcher--a non-categorical demographic questionnaire and a survey that asked participants about their experiences of four types of workplace microaggressions. The sample consisted of 52 self-identified women and non-binary people of color employed by non-profit agencies or governmental departments providing human services in the United States. Data were analyzed by applying interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) and a constant comparative approach, generating three overarching themes: (a) misperceptions of identity or circumstances, (b) navigating racial stereotypes, and (c) racialized objectification. Findings stress the importance of addressing microaggressions among employees to foster inclusive workplaces and the salience of race/ethnicity as a targeted identity in the human service professions. Recommendations include the development of workplace policies that create clear and effective avenues for addressing subtle discrimination. Individual social workers can effectively implement these policies by acknowledging, validating, and ultimately reducing unintended harm to colleagues.


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