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Guard against the impact of small, negative messages

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It's not unusual to feel the sting of a subtle putdown, a snub, or a sarcastic tone. Everyone has felt such "microinequities." Each one may not be serious enough to object to. Experiencing them often, however, can sap your enthusiasm and threaten your productivity.

Rutgers University presents a day-long seminar on how to handle microinequities and how to steer clear of inflicting them on others. Most attendees recount such offenses as being interrupted by someone talking in a loud voice; not being included in conversation; being ignored at a meeting; credit for their ideas being taken by someone else; or having their work trivialized.

Ideally, seminar leaders recommend that you react immediately to the microinequity sender, perhaps by saying that you want to be a member of this team. Give people the benefit of the doubt and assume the behavior was unintentional.

Next, pose a nonthreatening question such as asking if someone forgot to put your name on the distribution list.

Other recommended tactics include describing the offensive behavior factually and saying how it affected you. Suggest specific changes and benefits from them.

Be careful not to engage in microinequities yourself. Everyone who works with you and for you needs to be recognized.

Small acts of exclusion can decrease the effectiveness of any team. Worse, people may leave an organization because they don't feel valued.

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