ASA 004: What are Microaffirmations and why you want to have them in your team

Monika Chutnik
What are Microaffirmations and why you want to have them in your team

Microaffirmations – why do they matter in your virtual team? I will discuss this topic with my guest: Ben Capell, a consultant and specialist in Inclusion and Diversity area.


In this episode you will learn:

  • What are microbehaviours and why do they matter?
  • How microbehaviours translate into performance?
  • Who can actually impact the microbehaviours in a team?

When you listen to this episode please think about one person who could also enjoy it! Share the link with them.


Three main conclusions I take along from this conversation:

  1. Microbehaviours – small behaviours but make a huge impact
  2. Leaders lead the way, but every member of a team makes a difference and can become a role model
  3. It’s all right to double check on how to pronounce someone’s name


I wish you fun and discovery!


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If you need to educate leaders in how to create psychological safety in your remote teams, or if you would like to increase  inclusive leadership practices, or resilience of your employees – please contact us at ETTA


Additional materials:



There is a lot of interesting reaserach on behaviours in organisation and also on what we can do to drive inclusion and be sure that everybody feels they are belonging. Today we have an amazing speaker and an amazing topic o microaffirmations and our guest is Ben Capell. He works as consultant, expert and trainer with companies from Asia, Europe and the US. He also lived in many different countries. Big part of Ben’s work is helping organisations to be more inclusive.


Microaffirmations are a part of microbehaviours at work. What are microbehaviours?

The whole topic of microbehaviours is the understanding that most of the time the messages that we send to people whether they are included or excluded, whether we want to be with them and respect them, are micromessages and happen on a daily basis. Sometimes in one conversation we can have a lot of those.


For example: let’s say that you celebrate someone’s success, there is a huge event. This could happen once a year or once each two years. Some people can never have a huge achievment that the company will celebrate. But recognising people on a daily basis, encouriging them, listening to them and paying attention, checking if everything is OK – this happens all the time, every hour we can experience some of those behaviours.

What’s interesting about microbehaviours is that we sometimes don’t think about those because we think of the big behaviours (positive or negative) but actually most of daily interactions that will make us feel valued or not are happening on a small scale and accumulating.


Why are microbehaviours relevant in business?

You can look at it on two levels. One level is that we get more out of people in terms of motivation and how they feel.

We probably practise microaffirmation but the question is if we consciously make sure that everyone receives the doses of microaffirmations that will help them feel included, invited to contribute. And maybe not everyone does.

And when we accumulate this energy together, are we just having a small group in the organisation that feels engaged or motivated or we have larger group or ideally everyone feels the same?

We can also look at it at different level. If I’m invited, I contribute, you hear more my ideas, I will pay attention to what you say. But maybe I ignore you and don’t contribute, don’t keep eye contact etc., don’t pay attention. All these together is the element that we want to recognise. How people feel, how open we are to the contribution, how much we encourage them. It is very important for the poeple themselves but also for the contribution they will make to our organisation and how we grow as an organisation.


Why are there so many microagressions in media and not many microaffirmations?

I think it’s important to recognise both. They are both related to inclusion. One of the things we know is that we have a tendency to form in-groups and out-groups. It exists. It’s our tendency to operate like a clan. If people are close we find similarities with them. Relation to microaffirmations and microagressions or microinequities is that we tend to give more microaffirmations to people we consider to be in our in-group, we pay more attention to them. We open the door a little bit wider for them. Unconsciously, but it happens.

And of course the same is in hierarchy. If we talk to our manager we focus more, smile, turn on the camera, apologize for being late. It’s not always happening while talking to a person with a lower status in a group. In their case we can send little signals that we are not fully present in the moment.

For most of us there are some people that we will affirmate more and pay attention to more. And some other – less. There are also people who receive less affirmations than others. If it happens from time to time that’s OK, but if it starts accumulating it’s a problem.

Some poeple on a daily basis receive much less attention, signals that are valued and they will start fading. They will come to work but is it exciting to work in an organisation where people don’t pay attention to you? You will start to loose them.

I’ll go now to microagressions like when poeple mixup your name with someone else’s or don’t stop asking you where you come from. These are small things that make you feel exluded.

We want to encourage microaffirmation. To be sure we consciously do our best so everyone will feel included. So everyone feel that we pay attention to them, remember who they are, open the door for them.


Microaffirmations in hybrid or virtual workplaces

We work hybrid or remotly more often now. We see each other less. But when we do, do we check ‘how are you doing’? Or we just go straight to business? Think of it. Or maybe we frequently forget to add someone in the emails with updates? These small behaviours are messages that we send to people about how much we value them.

We usually pay more attention to people who are in the same room, so if we have a call and there are two people sitting next to me and other three people conecting remotely, do I treat them the same? I can do something accidentaly, mute someone, speak over, so people who are not with me in the room can feel less valued. That’s why hybrid events are difficult. People who are live contribute and those remote don’t receive attention and are not so engaged.

Let’s forget about hybrid for a while. Is it possible that in face-to-face connections there are still some people who are not really a part? Of course! We can use the microaffirmations to help them feel the part of our team, to feel they are in in-group.

Microaffirmations help us feel that we are in the same game.


These are some examples of microaffirmations at work:

  • keeping an eye contact
  • body language
  • using someone’s first name
  • acknoladging peoples contribution
  • checking feelings – how are you? how was your holiday?
  • asking questions on the personal level
  • encouriging to talk, inviting to speak up
  • smiling when I look at somebody
  • how frequently I look at people
  • build on people’s ideas
  • remember names
  • listen to people

Sometime we make all of that to some people and to other not. So we need to remember to proactivly use them. To all people. Especially if you are a leader. If you see that someone wants to say someting, help to create space. Invite to speak. Be attentive. Ask and listen.

It’s about small behaviours. They seem to be very simple and obtainable. But they have really huge impact.

Leaders have a big role and the biggest impact. They have the responsibility. They create the team culture. They should show people how to behave, what to do and how to use microaffirmations. When people feel good, they want to stay in your team and organisation. They want to be a part of it and want it to succeed. We want to feel that we belong. And it drives performance.

Sometimes when I have workshops in companies to talk about inclusion in teams and organisation I need to be very specific about talking what we can do as people and leaders and not as an organisation. When people hear ‘organisation’ they say about advanced programs they should implement. But I want to focus on what we can do on a daily basis.

If we want to change the organisation culture we can easily start with little behaviours, microaffirmations. You can start from now, and later do more and more. Analyze what’s around and think what you can do. Like for example little post-its with names of people you work with to remember them easily.


Sustainability of microaffirmations

The idea of sustainability is about having a checkpoint, making sure, for example every month, that we are still being inclusive. Are we still asking questions and sharing smiles? It could actually be a role of HR departments to create these checkpoints, oportunities to see if everything is going well, like at the beginning.

There are changes in the processes. At the beginning everything is like a honeymoon, after a few months we can become tired and want to resign or don’t think about something. I work a lot on mergers and acquisitions. And when there is the merger and acquisition, at the begining everything is perfect and exciting, there is a celebration. But after three months you don’t like how some things are done, you don’t like your manager, you think that people who joined don’t do their work well. It can be a difficult time for some people. That is the time when HR should react. People should join some projects together, get to know each other better, find similarities, do things together.

If in our organisation we have many people coming from a new culture and at the beginning everything is OK, after a few months it can be really important to check if it still is. We need to create inclusive environment, we need to understand that it’s a lot to learn a new culture and start working together well. We need to be proactive, have ideas, programs, conversations with employees. We need to ask about needs, maybe create some hobby groups. HR has a crucial role here. They need to support people who joined the organisation and managers who maybe don’t have experiences with this kind of situations.

It’s a lot of good work to do. A huge oportunity to improve inclusion and diversity in practice. And microaffirmation might be one of the most simple, aproachable, obtainable and impactful ways to do so.


Message you’d like to leave us with

There is a lot in our hands to do as leaders and employees in creating a proactive, inclusive, supporting working environment for everyone. It’s up to us. It’s also up to us to make a step back and reflect if there is anything I could do differently, better, start or stop doing something, So I can bring my best contribution as a human being to the organisation, and also as a leader and colleague.


Thank you!


Photo by Vana Ash on Unsplash

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