Microaggressions: Starting the conversation

Harworth approached Steps to deliver 4 interactive 120-minutes sessions over 2 days.


Harworth Group plc is one of the leading land and property regeneration companies in the UK. They have an ambitious growth strategy to be a £1b business by 2027 incorporating an equally ambitious people strategy that aims to put diversity at the heart of Harworth.


Need & Approach:

Harworth approached Steps to deliver 4 interactive 120-minutes sessions over 2 days. The objective for Steps was to empower their highly experienced teams of property professionals including surveyors, planners, engineers and project managers, as well as the central teams including finance, legal, IT, HR, marketing and business support.

Working in partnership with Harworth’s People team, Steps tailored a programme that mirrored a Steps open session. This interactive pre-existing Microaggressions and Unconscious Bias programme highlighted DEI themes that Harworth wanted to incorporate and displayed the new behaviours they hoped to adopt.


Harworth had the following learning outcomes around unconscious bias that they wanted included in the programme. They wanted to empower employees to:

  • Feel more confident in speaking up and starting the conversation around microaggressions and unconscious bias
  • Understand different perspectives in the team (including culture, race and gender identities)
  • Acquire a greater awareness on microaggressions and “seeing the subtle things”
  • Gain a better understanding on allyship


Based on learning outcomes discussed above we established and developed the following Programme objectives:

1. For the participants to leave with a better understanding of microaggressions

2. To feel more comfortable & confident starting conversations about unconscious bias

3. Be able to identify when and how they can display allyship



The 120-minute virtual session was delivered 4 times over 2 days to groups of 30 participants. Harworth invited a cross-section of employees from different departments and different levels of seniority to each session so that there was a mix of experiences and voices in the room. This encouraged shared learning and the senior executive and leadership teams presence and participation demonstrated strong senior leadership investment into the programme.

During the sessions the participants showed a high level of engagement and the interactive sessions provided opportunity for participants to display thoughtful and empathetic coaching techniques which may not otherwise have been successfully achieved


The programme was carefully written to lead the participants through our 4-step methodology


SEE IT – Introducing them first to the topic and engaging discussions through small group activities. Then allowing them to see the behaviours experienced in their workplace through our 10-minute scenario which showed 3 work colleagues on a video conference call all of whom experienced and displayed unconscious bias to other colleagues on the call.  This covered ageism, culturally inappropriate questions/comments, assumptions based on one’s sexuality, and sexist microaggressions. After witnessing these subtle and overt microaggressions they were able to discuss them in breakout groups, encouraging time for reflection and learning from each other’s personal experiences and seeing new perspectives (one of the objectives of the session).


OWN IT – The participants then had the opportunity to ‘hotseat’ the characters from the scenario about their behaviours. As the characters start to own their actions and go through a journey of realisation, the participants are also able to reflect on and own their own behaviours.


CHANGE IT– We then brought to life a challenging behavioural conversation from the previous scene and safely explored the impact of behaviours through an interactive scenario. Participants led the development of the scene as their advice was woven into the scenario helping the characters acquire new ways of behaving, which in turn helps the participants learn how to better manage these types of conversations.


LIVE IT – During the programme debrief Harworth and Steps discussed the engagement during the sessions, the overall impact of the programme and potential ways for Harworth to continue their journey and embed the new behaviours learned so they become business as usual. This is critical, and always requires a significant period of time.





The ‘Steps’ team were highly professional and made a very difficult, sensitive subject accessible to all. I thought the role play and use of drama very useful.”


“I’m really glad that this session taught so many people about micro-aggressions. This is important work, and I am glad Harworth is taking the time to do this.”


“This training was really interesting and enlightening. All the staff looked to come away having learnt something new and useable in their daily lives so a worthwhile workshop.”



What is Next?

As a result of the partnership built during this project, we have had an initial discussion about opportunities for potential deliveries in 2023.