“Micro-inequities” might not be a common term used by some business owners, but it describes something that often happens in the workplace. The usage of the term goes back to 1973 and it comes from Mary Rowe, who was the president and chancellor of MIT. Essentially, micro-inequities are words that are used and behavior that is enacted towards people who are perceived to be different from others in the workplace.

It’s not overt, but the behavior can harm the social dynamic of a company. A smart business owner will learn how to identify micro-inequities and improve the work culture by setting a good example.

Why are micro-inequities problematic?

As detailed in an article in Psychology Today by Berit Brogaard, some micro-inequities found in the workplace are: checking emails or texting during a face-to-face conversation, consistently mispronouncing a person’s name, interrupting a person mid-sentence, and making jokes aimed at certain minority groups.

“What makes micro-inequities particularly problematic is that they consist in micro-messages that are hard to recognize for victims, bystanders and perpetrators alike,” Brogaard stated. “When victims of micro-inequities do recognize the micro-messages, Rowe argues, it is exceedingly hard to explain to others why these small behaviors can be a huge problem.”

There’s a line that can be crossed with sensitivity. A remark intended to be innocent can come across as hurtful.

What is a business owner to do?

Dealing with a potential issue requires seeing things through objective viewpoints. For example, ask yourself if you’re treating a woman – regardless of her race or sexual orientation – like an equal in the workplace. Do you give her your full attention and cooperation?

Remarks can be intended to be innocent, but if they are received negatively, you could easily find your company has a problem. Quite often – and understandably – employees who don’t feel respected often lose respect for the company.

Micro-inequalities can be a threat to your business, so it’s important to recognize them before they get out of control.