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One word for the jargon bucket - Microaffirmations - 3 Plus International

One word for the jargon bucket – Microaffirmations

by Feb 29, 2024

Another word for the jargon bucket

There is one phrase that needs to go in the jargon bucket because it gets on every one of my remaining nerves. That is the word “Microaffirmations.”

 

Although I have a preference for plain speaking unlike my Brussels-based Comms connection Laura Shields, I don’t mind a bit of jargon. In fact, I think jargon reflects our corporate times, so I don’t get bent out of shape about phrases such as “finding synergy,”  or  “paradigm shift.” Although I must say I did raise a concerned eyebrow at the prospect of a man “opening the kimono.”  Some kimonos are best kept firmly closed IMHO.

However, there is one phrase in the jargon bucket that gets on every one of my remaining nerves and that is the word “Microaffirmations.”

Jargon Bucket

With the focus and formalisation of DE&I, we have seen descriptives change. The word “micro-aggressions” has highlighted a whole host of hurtful or inappropriate behaviour. Some have been helpful but some have not. It has highlighted the long-term impact of certain behaviours which hadn’t previously come under the umbrella. We have come to understand the cumulative trauma of jokes and “banter.”  But it has also diluted others.

Grabbing someone’s bum isn’t a micro-aggression, inappropriate or toxic behaviour –  it’s sexual assault.

That’s why it’s important to name it.

Jargon bucket

Cover all or cover up?

The same is true for microaffirmations. Daily acts of kindness and decent behaviour shouldn’t need a global cover – or is it a cover-up name? What are microaffirmations some might ask?

  • saying please, thank you
  • giving recognition
  • expressing gratitude
  • asking opinions
  • using positive body language
  • listening
  • letting people speak
  • asking about them as people

They are all stand-alone behaviours worthy of specific mention. Without that precise naming, I know from experience that people don’t understand exactly what they have to do. They need to have it spelled out in words of one syllable. I have worked with mortified individuals because their boss never says please, thank you, or even good morning.

We don’t say to children “remember your microaffirmations” we are very specific about what constitutes positive, inclusive behaviour. Let’s stop bundling them and go back to naming them individually. Just because it’s new doesn’t make it better.

Worth a read: How to create a speak-up culture – 3 Plus International

Daily acts of kindness

Microaffirmations involve small, individual acts of kindness and decent behavior that will probably not lead to meaningful structural change across an organisation. If these types of actions are embedded in the workplace culture, it increases the chance of that culture being inclusive on a wider scale.

When organisations rely on individuals without reflecting those values in leadership commitment and systemic change, they become complacent. Eventually, those employees will leave, go on strike, or become less productive

Cover systemic problems

What we don’t want to happen is to divert attention away from addressing larger systemic issues such as institutional discrimination, bullying, harassment, and structural inequality with a buzzword. While microaffirmations can be beneficial on an individual level, they may not address the root causes of marginalisation and exclusion.

They also don’t counteract the impact of structural bias and stereotyping that shape our perceptions and behaviours. It’s essential to complement microaffirmations with meaningful structural changes and a commitment to challenging systemic barriers to equity and inclusion.

So let’s toss microaffirmations into the jargon bucket and name precisely what those behaviours are.

 

Does your workplace promote inclusion? 3Plus can help you with our specialist services for Executive Search and Diversity Recruitment.

 

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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