When thriving requires effortful surviving: Delineating manifestations and resource expenditure outcomes of microaggressions for Black employees

J Appl Psychol. 2023 Feb;108(2):183-207. doi: 10.1037/apl0001016. Epub 2022 Apr 28.


Although overt racism is condemned by many organizations, insidious forms of racism persist. Drawing on the conservation of resources framework (Hobfoll, 1989), this article identifies forms and outcomes of racial microaggressions-daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities that denigrate individuals from racially minoritized groups (Sue, Capodilupo, et al., 2007). Leveraging survey data from 345 Black employees, open-ended question qualitative insights delineate three overarching themes of workplace microaggression toward Black employees: anti-Black stereotype expression, racialized role assignment, and interactional injustice. We also detail how these themes manifest in nine distinct ways. Then, we model the cognitive and emotional resource recovery and protection processes that Black employees engage in to overcome workplace microaggressions. Quantitative results demonstrated that workplace microaggressions related to subsequent resource replenishment (i.e., co-rumination, or discussing feelings and venting about problems with coworkers; Rose, 2002) and protection (i.e., racism-related vigilance, or mentally preparing for anticipated racism; Clark et al., 2006) efforts. Further, results suggested undesirable effects of microaggressions on burnout and job satisfaction. Finally, we found a positive relationship between resourcing efforts and job satisfaction but found no support for trait resiliency or organizational support as buffers of microaggression effects. Implications for future research and direct interventions are discussed. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / psychology
  • Health Expenditures
  • Humans
  • Microaggression*
  • Racism* / psychology
  • Stereotyping