What Is Diversity Fatigue in The Workplace — and How We Can Overcome It?
11 August 2020
Diversity fatigue won’t just drain your HR team, it can have serious consequences on your organization as a whole. In this article, we explore the definition of diversity fatigue, how to recognize it in your workplace, and what you can do to overcome it.
Let’s pan out for a moment and reflect…
What is the current narrative surrounding diversity and inclusion in the workplace?
- Organizations with gender-diverse executive boards enjoy 21% higher profitability and, in the UK, it was found that BME talent could boost GDP by £24 million
- … yet 68% of C-Suite executives are white males, only 4% are women of color, and only one Fortune 500 CEO is openly gay.
- Then, when it comes to job seeking, 67% of candidates consider diversity a valuable metric for assessing an opportunity’s worth
- … and yet 41% of managers say they are “too busy” to work on D&I in their teams.
This is just a fraction of the research, statistics, and insights available online today. But even dipping your toe in the water, it’s easy to see how many professionals are experiencing so-called diversity fatigue. It can sometimes feel like, despite best intentions, nothing is changing — right?
What is the definition of diversity fatigue?
Defined by The New Yorker the stress managers can feel when striving to achieve D&I goals, workplace diversity fatigue has the potential to impact not only those tasked with hiring, training, and retaining the best (diverse) talent available, but it can seep into the company culture, too.
Yes, it will take time and effort to deconstruct the generations of inequality certain professional demographics have suffered. But when the stats so clearly show the benefits that lie in wait, is there really any excuse to give up when the going gets tough?
According to the World Economic Forum, no.
If you’re an exhausted employee, trying to achieve a truly diverse and inclusive workforce: we hear you. But combating diversity fatigue begins with acknowledging what needs to change, and going from there.
How to recognize diversity and inclusion fatigue in your workplace
At its most basic, diversity fatigue boils down to a disconnect. Either you’re saying one thing, and doing something different. Or your leaders are promoting a certain mindset and approach, without it being echoed by the wider organization.
The good news is: by spotting these disconnects, you can begin to fill in the gaps. The following signs and symptoms are common manifestations of diversity fatigue in action.
✱ You have ambitious D&I goals, but company-wide representation still falls short
We’ve all been there. You book in the team meeting, you jot down notes, you flesh those notes out into a highly-designed manifesto or mission statement. Then print it, circulate it, and get on with the rest of your job list.
Too often, we trick ourselves into thinking we’re taking action, when really we’re just planning for action.
The result? A solid set of diversity representation goals and objectives, with very little achieved in return. At this stage you’re talking the talk, but you’re not walking the walk.
D&I can only really be measured by progress — not by intention. Moreover, it’s not just about how diverse your team is, but it’s how supported and successful diverse employees are while working with you. This is where introspection (and a great deal of qualitative performance management) comes in. If you’re afraid to look or ask, you’re probably suffering diversity fatigue.
✱ D&I isn’t a driving factor in your recruitment processes
This follows on from the previous point: in order to prioritize diversity in your workforce, you need a recruitment approach that puts emphasis on finding diverse candidates.
Whether they know it or not, your hiring teams are applying inherent bias and discrimination in their selection. Chances are, there’s no hard feelings involved — it’s just human nature. Is D&I an active consideration when recruiting, with biases accounted for and combated? If not, it’s time to hit refresh.
✱ Your diversity training sessions are poorly attended
An inclusive culture is collaborative, co-operative, and curious. And, as such, well-attended training events (in all forms) are a sure sign that your company is moving forward together.
If, on the other hand, your diversity sessions pull only a small crowd, there’s work to be done in getting buy-in for D&I. As we said before, it’s one thing for leaders to spearhead inclusivity, but you need everyone else on the team to support the cause, too. That’s how company cultures are formed — behavior is modeled, mirrored, then made commonplace.
Overcoming workplace diversity fatigue: three things you can do today
If you recognize your workplace in any of the above, don’t worry. While getting to a place of true, long-lasting D&I will take time, there are a number of ‘easy wins’ you can work on right away:
Make diversity a pro for everyone
No doubt, increasing workplace diversity brings a myriad of benefits for the company and all its employees — not just the diverse ones! So make those benefits clear. Celebrate them.
And reassess how you present D&I efforts internally. If you position diversity as something everyone should be invested in — for good reason — then that enthusiasm will rub off.
Look at your own, unique challenges
Teams take their cultural cues from the top. If senior managers are feeling the pressure of diversity fatigue, this frustration and despondency will trickle down to everyone else.
Often, the answer lies in throwing out the rule book and working with the C-Suite to analyze the blockers that exist in your organization alone. Whether it’s investing in on-site childcare, running bias-awareness training, or updating business cards and/or email signatures to allow for gender-inclusive language — what works for your company will depend on who you have on-board, and who you hope to hire…
Move forward with bias-free recruitment
Embracing a culture of D&I requires a radical change in recruitment — HR teams need to understand and accept that their unconscious biases may be getting in the way of finding the best talent, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, physical ability, or ethnic status.
This is difficult, even impossible, to do without the right tools.
✱ Headstart helps recruiters focus on skills and potential — not background. Using data science, our platform assesses each candidate equally, recommending those who’d be best for the job at hand. This not only levels the playing field, making D&I easier to achieve than ever before, but it speeds up time-to-hire, too.
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