Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) has been a hot topic for quite some time, but in 2020, companies really started to buckle down and implement DEI initiatives. Harvard Business Review revealed that 60% of organizations surveyed had a DEI strategy in place, and in 2021, one-third of S&P 500 companies even tied DEI success metrics to executives’ pay. But despite the many positive outcomes of these efforts, many organizations are beginning to experience DEI fatigue, which affects both those leading and learning about these initiatives.
What is DEI Fatigue or Diversity Fatigue?
DEI fatigue, sometimes called diversity fatigue, refers to the burnout or overwhelm that can come from constantly striving for inclusive workplaces without seeing tangible improvements in diversity metrics or team dynamics. This term is also inclusive of employees who are simply tired of talking about diversity or unsure about how to actually make changes. DEI fatigue can also manifest itself in the form of diversity backlash, which is the pushback against organizations that are working to create an inclusive culture. It often affects those who have invested considerable time and energy into DEI initiatives but have yet to see any real progress; this feeling can be compounded by the fact that some employees may believe their efforts are going unrecognized.
With the right action plan in place, your organization doesn’t have to fall victim to DEI fatigue. Stay alert to the signs of DEI fatigue and keep your team motivated to work towards a more equitable future.
DEI Professionals Weigh In:
DEI should be viewed as a competency and an asset. So—not unlike organizational mandates calling for effective leadership or accurate accounting—diversity, equity, and inclusion should be woven into the very fabric of an organization.Rhonda Moret, Founder/CEO, Elevated Diversity
As a recruiter, I’m often tasked with helping companies diversify their workforce. But adding an additional level of scrutiny to each candidate can feel overwhelming. My top tip? Set and celebrate short-term goals.
It’s OK to admit that your company won’t diversify overnight. In fact, admitting to your shortcomings is seen by employees and clients as a step forward, so be honest about where you are. Then create actionable steps you can take to meet your broader aim of diversity, equality, and inclusion.Rob Reeves, CEO and President, Redfish Technology
What are the signs of DEI fatigue?
Keep an eye out for the following symptoms. If you notice any of these signs within your team, it could be an indication they’re suffering from DEI fatigue.
- Decreased engagement with DEI initiatives
- Avoidance behaviors, such as dodging conversations about difficult topics related to race and gender equity
- Feelings of resentment or apathy towards colleagues who are vocal about these matters
- Difficulty staying motivated with long-term projects or goals related to DEI initiatives
- Lower levels of productivity than usual
- Increased stress levels due to feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work needed for successful implementation
How to Respond to DEI Fatigue in the Workplace
First and foremost, recognize that DEI fatigue exists. Then, take steps to reduce its impact on employees and the progress of crucial DEI initiatives. Here are some strategies to help HR professionals and their teams stay motivated and focused on building an inclusive workplace:
- Set realistic goals and share updates on progress. Regularly sharing data and metrics with your team will show them that their efforts are making a difference, even if change isn’t always immediately visible. This will also help everyone stay informed about where the company stands in terms of its DEI goals, which serves as an important reminder of why they are working so hard in the first place.
- Celebrate wins (big and small). Acknowledging successes, no matter how small, is key to keeping morale high and spurring your team on towards further progress. Showing appreciation for individual efforts will also promote camaraderie among colleagues as they work towards common goals.
- Take breaks! Give yourself (and your employees) grace. Encourage employees to take breaks from their work when needed to prevent burnout and allow everyone to recharge and refocus on the task at hand. Remind everyone not to be too hard on themselves when mistakes happen or when progress feels slow. DEI initiatives often involve complex social issues that cannot be solved overnight.
The benefits of DEI
A more inclusive workplace through DEI efforts creates many benefits for organizations and individuals alike. You’ve probably heard the McKinsey statistic that diverse organizations were up to 35% more likely to outperform their less diverse competitors. So, investing in DEI initiatives is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also good for business. Here are some additional advantages of embracing DEI:
- Attract diverse talent: By creating an open and welcoming environment, companies can draw in a more wide-ranging pool of talent, which in turn leads to a more dynamic and innovative workforce.
- Spark innovation: Research has shown that diverse teams are more likely to come up with innovative solutions and ideas, as they bring together their varied perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences.
- Expand customer base and loyalty: A diverse workforce is better equipped to understand and cater to the needs of an increasingly diverse customer base, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Enhance public perception: DEI initiatives give businesses the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity and diversity, which can lead to better public image and potentially attract more business.
Businesses should prioritize listening to their employees and understanding the unique challenges each one faces in order to better foster an inclusive work culture. By taking these steps, we can all strive towards creating spaces where everyone feels welcome and included regardless of their background or identity.
Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will a diverse and inclusive workplace. DEI is a long-term commitment that requires ongoing effort, open communication, and the willingness to learn and grow together. By recognizing the signs of DEI fatigue and taking proactive measures to keep your team engaged and energized, you can continue to make progress towards a more equitable and inclusive future for everyone in your organization.
Related: Why Diversity Matters [Infographic]
How Paycor Helps
Want to know how your employees really feel about DEI efforts? is an anonymous survey tool that helps promote a positive employee experience by giving HR leaders the tools they need to capture, analyze and respond to feedback and concerns.
Paycor’s Learning Management software gives you the tools you need to offer employees powerful, personalized training on demand. And it’s accessible on-the-go on mobile or desktop.
For more free resources and tools that promote greater diversity awareness in the workplace, visit Perspectives+, Paycor’s online knowledge library designed to help our partner network drive change, empower colleagues, and foster new leaders.