How You Can Keep the DEI Conversation Going despite Diversity Fatigue (and Summer!)

Home Resources Articles How You Can Keep the DEI Conversation Going despite Diversity Fatigue (and Summer!)
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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

DEI workshops and training programs aren’t new – we’ve been engaging with tough topics like sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and racial bias in the workplace for decades. However, the m*rder of George Floyd in 2020 sparked a renewed interest in this work, particularly for businesses. DEI-related roles increased 55% in the months following the tragedy. Employees saw a 57% increase in DEI-related training, a 35% increase in ERG support, and a 26% increase in Black entry-level hires. But in just three years, we’ve seen the commitment to DEI initiatives wane as talks of an impending recession have prompted lay-offs, with DEI professionals some of the first to be let go. This communicates to staff that DEI initiatives are of minimal importance but can also speak to another issue: diversity fatigue.

Diversity fatigue is defined as desensitization towards diversity efforts, where employees are becoming resistant to engaging with DEI-related training and initiatives in the workplace. This can be for a variety of reasons: having difficult conversations about race at work can be emotionally taxing and draining for employees, there is often a lack of institutional support or resources for the work to be done meaningfully, and some people are resistant to change. Additionally, DEI professionals are experiencing high levels of burnout due to lack of resources and the emotional labor required to engage in social justice work on a daily basis.

As we near the long, warm days of summer, where companies typically see a 20% decrease in worker productivity (hello summer Fridays) and an increase in warm-weather distractions, how do we combat diversity fatigue alongside these existing behavioral issues? 

As an individual:

  1. Recognize that the need for DEI isn’t a fad

While DEI-related initiatives were “en vogue” in 2020, we need to start recognizing the issues that necessitate DEI for what they are: systematic and ongoing. Our collective attention spans are short as our media landscape jumps from one catastrophe to the next within the hour, so we tend to forget that the underlying issues still exist whether or not they have been deemed worthy of viral attention. Black people still experience racism in all areas of life, women+ are still paid less than men, people with disabilities are still underemployed, trans lives are still under attack, the list goes on and on. The livelihood and well-being of marginalized populations isn’t a trend we can hop on when we want to feel good about ourselves.

  1. Understand that we’re tired, too

I promise that you aren’t as tired of talking about DEI as we are of needing the conversations to exist in the first place. Recognize that the conversations you’re having are necessary for any meaningful kind of change to occur, and while we’re all tired, it’s important enough to continue – lives literally depend on it. 

  1. Recognize that the work is not the workshop

It’s easy to leave a training session and want all of the problems of the world to be solved when you leave the room (trust me, we would love nothing more than that as a reality!). But, in truth, that’s just the starting point. Our goal is to equip you with the language, resources, and skills necessary to go back and start the work. Change takes time and is often accomplished by the small, meaningful actions you take.

  1. Notice and name your feelings

Sometimes we don’t do a great job acknowledging or sitting with our emotions. When discomfort arises, being able to name what we’re feeling and be curious about what’s coming up for us can be beneficial. If you’re feeling frustrated, ask yourself why. Why does this information frustrate or annoy you? Are you feeling shame or guilt? Where is that coming from? Getting in tune with yourself can help you process your emotions and better understand why resistance may be coming up for you.

  1. Incorporate rest – we all need it

We get it – the world is (literally) on fire, and there’s always something to attend to physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually or all of the above. This can be overwhelming and cause anyone to want to shut down and watch reruns of their favorite Saturday morning cartoon for solace. So take care of yourself, and if you need to take a break from the DEI things for a moment, so be it. But understand that stepping away from this work altogether isn’t an option for those with marginalized identities, and as an ally, we need you.

For companies:

  1. Set small DEI goals

It’s easy to imagine lofty goals for your company, but reaching them can present challenges. Start with assessing where you are by conducting anonymous employee surveys, reviewing demographic data, and identifying trends in employee dissatisfaction. Pick one area to address and develop a plan. Implement, assess, repeat.

  1. Incorporate DEI into company-wide goals

In addition to increasing ROI, customer retention, employee satisfaction, global acquisitions, or whatever else your company assesses on a regular basis, DEI should be an integral part of your company goals and strategic planning. This means that DEI initiatives will be tracked, assessed, and evaluated continuously.

  1. Make DEI relevant to everyone

Make all staff feel as though they can and want to participate in DEI-related efforts at your company. Every person who works for your organization should have a stake in ensuring that everyone is treated equitably, feels like they belong, and that their contributions matter. Messaging the importance of this work from the C-suite is a powerful way to let the entire organization know that DEI is a priority for the organization.

  1. Take the time to implement what you’ve learned

If you signed up the entire staff for a workshop series, engaged in coaching sessions, or attended webinars, you have takeaways that you can implement almost immediately. Instead of checking the box that you’ve acquired and attended training, set aside time to plan with your teams on how to implement what folks have learned. Put procedures into place to address microaggressions or discrimination, revamp your sourcing and hiring practices, and/or review your benefits and human resources documents. Taking action communicates to staff that DEI is valued and the time they spent in training wasn’t wasted.

  1. Communicate often and with transparency

Let your teams know where your DEI efforts have been successful and where the company still has room to grow. Present data and learnings to all stakeholders, including all levels of staff. This shows the people in your organization that your efforts aren’t performative and that DEI will be an ongoing part of your organizational assessment and long-term goals.