The impact of diversity fatigue and how to combat it

The impact of diversity fatigue and how to combat it

Helpful tips on the impact of diversity fatigue and how to combat it

When someone experiences diversity fatigue within academic or corporate settings, they have a diminished response to or desensitization to diversity efforts. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work can be emotionally and psychologically exhausting for many people, leading to diversity fatigue. Here's more information about diversity fatigue, its causes, and how your business can combat it.  

What is diversity fatigue?

Diversity fatigue can manifest in many ways, including feelings of frustration, burnout, isolation, and resentment. People who feel their company places too much emphasis on DEI and those who feel responsible for driving DEI efforts may be more likely to experience diversity fatigue. Individuals who experience diversity fatigue may be reluctant to participate in DEI initiatives. They might also feel disillusioned or discouraged. This is particularly true for those who work in recruitment and hiring, as attracting, recruiting, and hiring diverse candidates can be difficult for talent acquisition teams.

What causes diversity fatigue?

Many factors contribute to diversity fatigue. One of the main causes is the prevalence of microaggressions and other types of discrimination within organizations. Microaggressions are subtle, indirect, or unintentional forms of discrimination. These experiences can be emotionally draining and can make individuals feel their efforts to promote DEI are unwelcome, unappreciated, or futile. Individuals forced to advocate for their own inclusion or educate their colleagues could feel burdened, and a lack of institutional support for DEI efforts can contribute to these feelings. 

A frequent need to engage in difficult conversations about gender, race, disabilities, and other forms of diversity can also contribute to DEI fatigue. Broader societal factors, such as the ongoing prevalence of prejudice and discrimination, can make people feel their DEI efforts aren't working and that issues are insurmountable.

Disinformation, negative news, and social media content can also lead to diversity fatigue. According to the Institute for Public Relations, 69% of Americans believe disinformation is a major problem—bigger than climate change, terrorism, and infectious disease outbreaks. Diversity fatigue can also be associated with:

  • A lack of resources and time to address DEI challenges and develop solutions
  • Negative feedback from senior teams or members of upper management who feel frustrated by slow progress
  • A focus on short-term DEI efforts instead of long-term commitments
  • A lack of interest or motivation from employees regarding DEI initiatives

"Disinformation, negative news, and social media content can lead to diversity fatigue. According to the Institute for Public Relations, 69% of Americans believe disinformation is a major problem, bigger than climate change, terrorism, and infectious disease outbreaks."

How to combat diversity fatigue

Knowing how to combat diversity fatigue can help your company avoid pausing DEI initiatives or giving up on building a diverse workforce. You can fight diversity fatigue by providing resources and support for employees. This could include mentorship, training, and other types of professional development. Creating a company culture that values diversity and inclusion can also be helpful. 

You can make DEI initiatives more inclusive and equitable by actively seeking participation and input from underrepresented individuals and respecting their opinions and perspectives. As a leader in your business, you should be aware of people experiencing DEI fatigue who might feel dissatisfied or resentful. 

Here are some additional tips to help you combat diversity fatigue:

Set realistic expectations for DEI initiatives

DEI efforts require ongoing dedication, commitment, promotion, and resources. You also need to be prepared for complex challenges and setbacks. Keeping the lines of communication open with your team and helping people understand why, how, and when your company will reach specific goals can allow you to set more realistic expectations for DEI initiatives.

DEI involves every individual in an organization and almost every part of the organization's work. Without moving forward, learning from past results, and course-correcting as needed, diversity fatigue can ensue. You and the rest of your talent acquisition team can focus more on diversity recruitment by setting SMART goals. These goals should be:

  • Specific: Goals should be simple but specific enough to avoid confusion about what your team wants to achieve.
  • Measurable: Goals should be measurable so you can monitor their progress and identify areas where diversity fatigue could appear. Use regular surveys to closely examine your company's data and insights, understand the organization's strengths and weaknesses, and make intelligent, data-driven decisions.
  • Achievable: Goals should be realistic and attainable for your company.
  • Relevant: Goals should align with your company's hiring objectives.
  • Time-bound: DEI initiatives are ongoing, but a company's recruiting and hiring goals should change over time. It's a good idea to update them regularly as business needs change.

Communicate your DEI efforts to candidates

Along with existing employees, it's a good idea to make sure candidates know about your company's ongoing DEI efforts. This can help you attract and retain diverse people with many excellent talents while driving participation in DEI initiatives and decreasing diversity fatigue.

Formalize your DEI initiatives 

Many organizations are making good progress with their DEI initiatives. However, it's easy to lose track of your company's goals or need to change strategies often due to diversity fatigue if you don't formalize DEI initiatives. Formalizing diversity efforts makes them easier to communicate and helps everyone understand what you're working toward and why.

Teach people how to be aware of and avoid unconscious biases

People often have unintentional, unconscious biases. Teaching employees to avoid them can help reduce diversity fatigue and make everyone feel more fairly treated. Here are some common types of unconscious biases:

  • Affinity bias: A tendency to prefer those who look and act in a similar way to themselves or other people they admire
  • Confirmation bias: Mostly looking for and accepting new information that confirms existing beliefs
  • Appearance bias: Judging people based on physical attributes, such as height or weight
  • Gender bias: Believing someone of one gender is more or less capable than someone of another 
  • Attribution bias: Attributing some of a person's characteristics to unrelated actions
  • Authority bias: Treating the opinions of authority figures with more respect than the opinions of others with similar qualifications but lower-level positions 
  • Age bias: Assuming that someone has certain characteristics based solely on their age, such as thinking that young people are inexperienced
  • Conformity bias: Mimicking the behavior and beliefs of others instead of forming your own

Make DEI efforts relevant to everyone 

Diversity programs sometimes focus on minorities, neglecting people who are like most other employees. This bias can prevent a large portion of your organization's staff from understanding how to promote DEI and prevent diversity fatigue and discrimination. Instead, keep everyone informed about how to improve DEI.

Discussing DEI at work can be difficult, but it's important to prevent diversity fatigue. When you understand the factors involved, you can help employees address them and make your organization more equitable. DEI initiatives also improve recruitment, retention, and employee satisfaction. You can learn more about diversity and hire new candidates with CareerBuilder. Preventing diversity fatigue can help you improve your company's reputation as well.

Related reading: Diversity, equity, and inclusion

Celebrating Black History Month at work is a great way to promote diversity and combat diversity fatigue.

After Black History Month, Women's History Month is in March.

To recruit the best candidates, learn how other employers in your industry approach diversity.

Employees have important roles in shaping diversity and inclusion at work.

To improve diversity and help people feel like part of the team, empathy should be an important part of hiring.

Here are some tips to help you create a diversity, equity, and inclusion recruiting plan for your company.

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