It can be extremely discouraging for a DEI leader to overhear expressions of frustrations and skepticism towards, and/or sensing a lack of participation in DEI initiatives, or enthusiasm from employees for their organisation’s drive to accomplish more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces.
There’s a name for the phenomenon mentioned above… these are all symptoms of diversity fatigue. The term originates from the 1990s to describe the stress associated with leadership’s attempts to diversify the workforce, predominantly through recruiting and retention efforts. In the current times diversity fatigue has become a much broader term and can be visible in a variety of ways. It includes for example everyone who are just feeling tired of talking about diversity but don’t see adequate actions or results.
Diversity is often communicated as a target number or percentage. As long as organisations fail to nurture and build the skills an organisation needs, missing the path of Equity and Inclusion, these organisations won’t achieve the benefits of increasing diversity. Actually, they run the risk that diversity fatigue sets in since there’s no “walking the walk”. DEI can very rapidly become a ‘should have’ which is the topic of Paula Newby’s recent post: "DEI - Moving from 'We should' to 'We must' (https://www.predixa.ai/post/dei-moving-from-we-should-to-we-must).
So what can organisations do to avoid or deal with diversity fatigue? Here are some recommendations:
➡️ Understand your biggest DEI challenges and issues
➡️ Prioritise which DEI themes and initiatives to focus on
➡️ Set realistic expectations for DEI initiatives
➡️ Measure the progress of DEI initiatives
➡️ Take mitigating actions to resolve issues
➡️ Formalize your DEI strategy
➡️ Include the human aspect, go beyond numbers and processes
➡️ Communicate your DEI successes, internally and externally
How can it be that organisations end up being diagnosed with diversity fatigue? Didn’t we have all these very compelling reasons and data to pursue the business case for DEI? What about the positive impact diversity can have on performance, revenue, stock price and innovativeness of an organisation?
Instead of trying to fix diversity fatigue with a band-aid, we should understand and work on solving the root causes of this very real DEI burnout threat. Diversity will only be effective when employees feel they belong and are being valued. Share your progress - be loud and proud about your successes. In other words, we need a workplace to be inclusive in order to thrive.
What’s your take on this topic?