Article: Is microaggression impacting your company culture? Axis Securities' Head HR delves into its hidden dangers


Is microaggression impacting your company culture? Axis Securities' Head HR delves into its hidden dangers

Emphasis on micro-behaviours ensures an inclusive culture and upholds the respect and dignity of individuals. While HR policies may outline behavioural expectations, ensuring their practical display in day-to-day conduct is equally crucial, stated Soonu Wadewala.
Is microaggression impacting your company culture? Axis Securities' Head HR delves into its hidden dangers

In the intricate landscape of corporate culture, the silent assassin known as micro-aggression lurks, clandestinely chipping away at the very foundations of organisational unity. It's the seemingly innocuous comments, the subtle exclusions, and the unnoticed slights that collectively conspire to undermine the fabric of company culture.

Consider the scenario: a junior team member's ideas consistently brushed aside, the deployment of derogatory language, or the exclusion of certain individuals from pivotal conversations. These micro-aggressions, if left unchecked, fester like a silent virus, infecting the very soul of a company.

This prompts a critical question: How do these seemingly inconspicuous actions materialise, and what do they signify for the broader organisational ethos? From insidious acts of discrimination based on race, gender, or ethnicity to the reinforcement of harmful stereotypes, micro-aggressions manifest in myriad forms, each contributing to a toxic brew that threatens to erode the essence of workplace camaraderie.

To find answers to many of these questions, we spoke to Soonu Wadewala, Head of HR at Axis Securities, and navigated the uncharted territories of micro-aggressions. In an exclusive interview with us, she exposed the corrosive impact of micro-aggressions and how to champion a collective effort to dismantle their insidious presence.

Excerpts from the interview: 

How do micro-behaviours differ from broader behaviours, and why are they crucial for shaping the organisational culture?

Micro-behaviours are the subtle actions, gestures, and expressions that collectively shape overall macro behaviours within an organisation. They are like the individual components of a well-engineered car. As these micro-parts affect a car's speed, performance, and sustainability, micro-behaviours profoundly impact an organisation's culture, performance, and success. 

While micro-behaviours may escape immediate notice, their collective impact is significant in fostering an environment that either supports or hinders organisational goals. For any organisation that aspires to foster a thriving culture, it is crucial to understand, acknowledge, and proactively manage micro-behaviours. There are various strategic initiatives that an organisation can implement to ensure these individual micro-behaviours align with organisational goals, vision, and values.

Generally, larger achievements and attitudes are appreciated within organisations. So, how can organisations recognise and appreciate positive micro-behaviours among employees?

Over the years, we have seen the corporate culture recognising and rewarding achievements more than attitudes. However, the human element is the differentiating factor in defining the success of an organisation. Hence, acknowledging the value of "being" and not just "doing” is paramount. The first step in this endeavour is strategic interventions that promote self-reflection and self-awareness. 

Encouraging individuals to understand their presence and impact on others can underscore how positive micro-behaviours spell collective growth. Getting in touch with underlying beliefs and values offers clarity of purpose and drives people to make meaningful contributions. 

Effective communication, both formal and informal, is essential to constantly reinforce the indisputable link between individual drivers and organisational success. Personality assessments, Human Process labs, and feedback mechanisms focused on specific attributes can be powerful tools for targeted recognition and development of such positive behaviours. Further, integrating values into the Performance Management System (PMS) can underscore the significance of displaying positive micro-behaviours and creating a culture where positive contributions are acknowledged and valued.

Should micro-behaviours be considered in the development of HR policies and practices? Why or why not?

Absolutely! Emphasis on micro-behaviours ensures an inclusive culture and upholds the respect and dignity of individuals. While HR policies may outline behavioural expectations, ensuring their practical display in day-to-day conduct is equally crucial. Encouraging specific and constructive feedback that focuses on behaviours rather than making generalised statements about an employee can bridge the gap between expectation and implementation. 

For instance, policies may touch upon behaviours such as phone etiquette during meetings or maintaining eye contact during conversations. These guidelines exist in many HR policies; however, their effectiveness depends on the display of these micro-behaviours in daily interactions within the organisation. It is not just about having policies in place but ensuring that they are actively communicated and understood in intent at all organisational levels.

Moreover, being alert to unconscious bias is integral to nurturing micro-behaviours. Incorporating training programs within HR policies can create the necessary awareness and promote a positive and inclusive culture.

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In terms of leadership, what are some of the micro-behaviours that can positively impact the overall culture?

The experiences, values, and beliefs of leaders influence the micro-behaviours throughout the organisation, either positively or negatively. Hence, as a first step, leaders must cultivate a practice of self-awareness and behavioural assessment to identify the micro behaviours that work for them.

Leaders can leverage various positive micro-behaviours to build a more enriching workplace. Active listening stands out as a behaviour that nurtures open communication and inclusivity. Vocalising the importance of self-awareness and engaging in open discussions about self-discovery allows leaders to motivate others on the same journey. Non-verbal cues, such as positive body language and gestures, uplift the environment and boost overall sentiments. 

Genuine care for the overall well-being of employees is the most powerful tool in a leader's arsenal. By expressing concern for professional growth, work-life balance, and personal development of their team members, leaders can foster a culture where individuals feel valued and supported.

How should the concept of micro-behaviours be integrated into leadership development programs to cultivate culture-focused leadership?

The shared implicit assumptions within the organization define the hidden values, beliefs, and unsaid ways of being, doing, and feeling. Recognising these assumptions is foundational to building a culture-focused leadership. 

Nurturing micro behaviours is essentially scraping the iceberg below the surface. Delving deeper, therefore, is essential to bring about the necessary behavioural shifts. This process necessitates a profound self-study, which entails 360-degree feedback from diverse roles and insights from self-introspection, extending beyond mere performance and surface behaviours.

At Axis Securities, we value self-awareness above every other attribute. Hence, we encourage our leaders on a transformative journey of self-discovery through a Human Process Lab. This lab brings out subtle nuances of leadership to the fore that might be lying in our blind spots or subconscious. Intentionally curated to peel the layers, these labs enable leaders to connect with their true selves, comprehend the impact of their behaviours and actions on others, and recognise their potential for personal and professional growth. The insights from these labs helped us identify macro and micro behaviours that our leaders can nurture to cultivate a 'progressive' organisational culture.

How do you foresee the role of micro-behaviours in shaping the future of workplace culture?

As the economy and technology continue to evolve, the influence of micro behaviours in shaping the future of workplace culture will become more dominant. Empowerment, self-management, and self-development will be the cornerstone for building a positive work culture. Connection and collaboration will remain critical to culture, starting with connection with oneself and extending to the connections we establish with others. Collaboration, particularly with multigenerational teams and cross-functional projects, is set to play a pivotal role in shaping the future workplace.

With the spotlight on overall well-being and mental health, micro behaviours become more relevant in facilitating meaningful communications and raising morale. While organisations stress the importance of performance—defining both the "what" and sometimes the "how"—micro-behaviours emerge as the nuanced "how" in executing the defined "what."  These subtle yet powerful attributes that shape the culture will emerge as the key to unlocking the true growth potential of an organisation.

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Topics: Culture, Employee Relations, #HRTech, #HRCommunity

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