Recently, I have written articles on this blog and LinkedIn about diversity fatigue and the key factors that can cause it. Diversity fatigue can be defined as feeling exhausted, frustrated, and even cynical about creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work culture. It can occur for many reasons, including a lack of leadership support, insufficient funds or staff, a poorly-defined plan, a lack of engagement (or even resistance) from colleagues. With all these elements potentially working against DEI practitioners, is it any wonder people are feeling burnt out?
In past posts we’ve talked about how to fight back to reclaim leadership support and much-needed funding. In this post, we’ll cover a different aspect: how to stay energized and motivated to “fight the good fight.”
Celebrate Milestones and Victories
Leaders in the DEI space are often hard on ourselves. Most of us set high standards and goals, and we feel awful if we fall short or if things are moving too slowly. We may also feel pressure from the company’s leadership team to make progress within a short timeframe. All these expectations can give the impression that we’re accomplishing nothing, but I know that’s not true. Don’t discount the small victories and minor milestones. Celebrate an uptick in leadership diversity. Applaud a decrease in problematic incidents. Recognize when DEI training is having a positive effect.
NOTE: To celebrate these milestones, it is essential to collect data or conduct surveys AND measure your progress.
Attend a DEI-Focused Event
Few things are as energizing and affirming as attending big DEI-focused events alongside likeminded people. Not only can these events provide new information and perspectives, they can also connect you with others who have similar goals and passions. Attending seminars with DEI practitioners can also help you think outside the box and, perhaps, see your company’s situation with fresh eyes.
Consider checking out Uplifting Impact’s inclusive leaders summit, scheduled for this spring. This, or a similar program, could be precisely what you need to re-energize and re-focus your work.
Set Healthy Boundaries
In my experience, too many DEI practitioners stretch themselves too thin and say “yes” to every ask. That isn’t sustainable, and it isn’t healthy. You need to guard yourself and your wellbeing, so you can continue to do this work long-term, without burning out. That might mean setting strict office hours, not replying to emails past a certain time (if you do, schedule them to send in the morning), turning down projects that do not align with your responsibilities, or delegating work.
And don’t forget to practice a little self-care throughout the week! Hit the gym, practice yoga, read a book, take a long walk—whatever you need to unwind and relax. If you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot effectively help others.
Ask For Help
Asking for helping is not a sign of weakness—far from it! When we’re too busy, or we know someone else has the time/skills/interest to perform a task better and quicker than ourselves, it’s a good idea to delegate. All great leaders delegate, so why not you too? I have found that one of the things that holds DEI leaders back is a sense of pride and responsibility. They think, “I need to prove I can do this work, so I’d better do it myself.” However, if you spend too much time “in the weeds,” you won’t be able to focus on the big picture. If it makes sense to delegate something, do it.
Connect with Other DEI Leaders
Community is powerful. If you’re feel burnt out (and even if you’re not!), it’s wise to connect with other leaders in the DEI arena. When you’re part of a network of likeminded individuals, you can lean on each other for support, commiserate when times are tough, offer advice and guidance, and celebrate victories together. Community can help lift us up and motivate us to keep going, despite hardships we face. Even if you’re not naturally extroverted or outgoing, I’m certain you will find value in connecting with those who are facing similar circumstances and struggles.
The ultimate goal for DEI leaders is to have the funding, support, and resources we need to do our work. However, even if your current circumstances are less than ideal, it is possible to keep up your energy and motivation to keep fighting for change. Start taking a few intentional actions to re-energize yourself, so you can continue your vitally important work.