Do You Have Diversity Fatigue? Here’s How To Address It
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Welcome to my weekly Q&A roundup. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)
If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions—tough questions, brave questions, you name it.
The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. So each week, I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.
The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusivity.
• Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.
• Inclusivity: bringing others along in the journey.
What To Do When Diversity Fatigue Is Wearing You Out
I’m sensing a case of diversity fatigue among my indefinitely-remote team. Is this a phase (in which it’s better to ride it out) or should I intervene?
So if we cross riding it out (i.e. complacency) off the list, we’re left with intervention. But how? What does a diversity fatigue intervention look like? To answer that question, we need to diagnose the underlying problem, because fatigue is a symptom of an imbalance somewhere else.
What Causes Diversity Fatigue?
Like Zoom fatigue, the diversity fatigue your team is experiencing indicates misalignment somewhere. In a Zoom call, misalignment stems from how humans instantaneously process information—such as smiles, expressions, and body language—in real life versus over a video call.
With diversity fatigue, misalignment could stem from a variety of factors, including:
1. Over-indexing on awareness, under-indexing on action
If D&I was a Gartner Hype Cycle, most organizations would fall somewhere between the Peak of Inflated Expectations and the Trough of Disillusionment. Large-scale D&I initiatives, pledges, and social media conversations (#MeToo) have yet to translate into tangible, forward progress.
When it comes to intersectional gender equity, we’re actually moving backward.
In 2019, our world was 202 years away from achieving gender equity in the workplace. We are now 257 years from this milestone.
And recently, renewed calls for racial justice have brought to light myriad evidence of how, by and large, the average workplace does not value employees equitably.
2. Over-indexing on diversity, under-indexing on inclusion
Focusing too much on diverse recruitment and too little on retainment costs money and morale.
Without an inclusive workplace to support diverse hires, companies risk losing the very people they sought to attract. This leads to higher employee churn and sunken morale among remaining teammates.
The cost of replacing an employee ranges from 20-150% of their salary. And that’s to say nothing about the diminished ROI of diversity-enhancing hiring solutions that 49% of talent leaders plan to integrate into their processes by 2022 (if they aren’t already).
3. Over-indexing on negative motivation, under-indexing on positive reinforcement.
Guilt-tripping colleagues into “doing the right thing” doesn’t work. It backfires. It’s more productive to encourage people to take a stand for D&I by appealing to positive emotions.
When we feel good about our decisions and actions, our energy, cognitive ability, and emotional resources increase.
Negativity, on the other hand, alienates people and throws them into defense mode. Guilt makes people feel threatened, which leads them to justify their behavior. We need to stop thinking about D&I in binary terms. All of us sit somewhere along the D&I continuum, so meet your team members where they are at.
Which misalignment is driving diversity fatigue among your team? Once you diagnose the underlying issue(s), then you can take the steps to realign your team.
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