Understanding Resilience and Micro-aggressions with Dr. Danielle King

close up picture of a computer keyboard showing one of the keys as "resilience."

In early December, the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences and Portland State University hosted their annual Fall Symposium, Supporting a Diverse Workforce in the Face of Ongoing Societal Trauma. Dr. Danielle King, Assistant Professor of Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Rice University presented, “Understanding and Connecting Resilience and Micro-aggressions.” Dr. King’s multi-faceted research examines workplace resilience, identity intersectionality and authenticity, and workplace citizenship behavior. Her most recent work calls on the field to increase scholarly inquiry into anti-blackness in the workplace as critical to creating effective organizations. In her new article, “Research on Anti-Black Racism in Organizations: Insights, Ideas, and Considerations” she dives deeply into the intersections between race, individual, and organizational health and success (Journal of Business and Psychology, 2023).

Dr. King standing with her arms crossed wearing a purple suite
Dr. Danielle King, Rice University

Dr. King’s Symposium presentation focused on the connection between micro-aggressions and resilience in the workplace. Her research team is working to understand and positively influence resiliency among individuals, teams, and organizations.

Dr. King observes that in the process of working towards a goal we often face adversity. In her chapter “What is resilience? Offering construct clarity to address “quicksand” and “shadow side” resilience concern,” she and her colleagues define resilience as, “continued, self-regulated goal striving, despite adversity” (King, D. D., et al., 2022). Dr. King notes that the goal is not to eliminate all adversity, as this may not be a possibility, but rather to reduce the frequency at which an employee needs to engage resilience to continue to work towards their goals. Factors like learning mindset, positive emotional experiences, and seeking social support influence a person’s ability to face adversity with resilience. She acknowledges in her work that there are times when demonstrating resilience is not productive or healthy (e.g., when engaging in resilience harms one’s health and well-being).

Dr. King’s research also examines workplace micro-aggressions and how these interpersonal slights, rooted in racism, are frequently experienced by people from historically excluded groups. These daily slights have a significant impact on those who experience them and negatively affect self-efficacy, job satisfaction, and the physical and psychological health of the person experiencing them. Her recent research, “When Thriving Requires Effortful Surviving,” shows that people who experience micro-aggressions exhibit an increase in depleting workplace behaviors including, co-rumination, racism-related vigilance, and burnout.

Dr. King suggests that recognizing these responses are burdensome to the person experiencing the harm, allyship, and organizational proactiveness can help contribute to a co-created resilient workplace. Ensuring individuals in the workplace have resources to recognize, name, and adapt in ways that address and reduce micro-aggressions is key. At the organizational level facilitating proactive conversations and activities that uncover power and privilege help reduce workplace micro-aggressions.  Ensuring there is continuous support for employees across the organization for collective growth related to diversity, equity, and inclusion has also shown a reduction of these interpersonal workplace harms.

King, D.D.DeShon, R.P.Phetmisy, C.N. and Burrows, D. (2022), “What is Resilience? Offering Construct Clarity to Address “Quicksand” and “Shadow Side” Resilience Concerns”, Perrewé, P.L.Harms, P.D. and Chang, C.-H.(D). (Ed.) Examining the Paradox of Occupational Stressors: Building Resilience or Creating Depletion (Research in Occupational Stress and Well Being, Vol. 20), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 25-50. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-355520220000020005

Access to the symposium audio recordings and handouts can be found at: