As it relates to diversity fatigue, how do we transition from short term solutions to aggressively implementing sustainable long term strategies? Perhaps, the first step is to understand how diversity fatigue impacts the perception of and sentiments about moving the diversity needle within organizations. I’ve used Bruce Schneider’s 7 Levels of Energy as outlined in Energy Leadership: Transforming Your Life and Your Workplace From the Core as a template to highlight various profiles of thought and engagement about diversity in the workplace likely held by individuals as well as organizations.
Level 1: The Victim – The diversity issue is completely hopeless. Even if I wanted to, there is nothing that I can do to change it. Of course I would never tell anyone this, so I’ll just smile and nod.
Level 2: The Fighter – I can’t believe that we are still having this diversity conversation. I already gave my two cents on what needs to happen to move forward. Why is this such a difficult issue for everyone to resolve? If it were up to me, I’d make the changes I suggested and explain why later.
Level 3: The Rationalizer – There are so many ways to address this issue and so many people are working on it. How can I make sure that the outcome benefits me?
Level 4: The Caregiver – What do you need me to do to help you resolve the diversity challenges? It may not be my job, but we are all in this together. I care about the people that are affected and recognize the work that everyone has put in so I’m happy to do what I can to move things forward.
Level 5: The Opportunist – The diversity dialogue has revealed recommendations and perspectives that I hadn’t previously heard or considered. I want to make sure that I understand everything, so where do we go from here?
Level 6: The Visionary – The diversity challenge isn’t a problem that we need to solve. It’s a process that we need to experience in order to truly acknowledge, understand, and accept each other as an extension of ourselves.
Level 7: The Creator – Diversity is a construct that we created and therefore an illusion. We create, observe, and experience diversity simultaneously. We are fearlessly accepting, open-minded, and love unconditionally.
Which energy level describes your current engagement and/or mindset? Which level(s) have you witnessed within your organization? To be clear, by outlining the above profiles, I’m not advocating for or against; suggesting right or wrong. I am, however, acknowledging that these profiles exist.
Depending on the context, energy levels can shift as they are influenced by our thoughts, feelings, and actions (or lack thereof). However, if we get stuck or plateau at any one of the seven levels for too long with no measurable progress or true transformative goal in sight, individuals (and organizations) can become fatigued and eventually disengaged.
So if you’ve experienced or are currently experiencing diversity fatigue, it’s reasonable to expect that there will be moments of frustration and perhaps even occasions when developing a thriving inclusive workforce just feels like a lofty, idealistic goal.
Although we may not always admit it, diversity is an emotional and personal experience. We can’t escape the dialogue or, at times, even the fatigue. We live it.
Diversity and inclusion shapes who we are and who we can be. It’s education, it’s politics, it’s our legal and corrections system, it’s entertainment, it’s healthcare, it’s intellectual curiosity, it’s religious preference, it’s gender identity, it’s ethnicity, it’s sexual preference, it’s generational, it’s socioeconomics, it’s our history. And our future.
Today…right now, I’d encourage individuals and organizations to do a pulse check to determine their energy leadership for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. As an organization, whether you decide to do a top down or bottom up assessment, is your decision. But the decision must be made and difficult/uncomfortable/necessary questions must be asked and answered in order to truly understand your current energetic presentation.
No one wants to (and realistically can) remain in a constant state of fatigue. Diversity fatigue presents a chance to vary our approach to a very important business challenge, or should I say business opportunity. An opportunity for strategic change that not only “moves the needle,” but transforms and elevates an organization’s workforce, culture, and business. And not just for the next three to five years, but 10-20+ years.
You don’t have to be an entrepreneur, a CEO, or even in the C-suite to actively take part in evolving how we think about and address this business opportunity, as each one of us has a personal stake in the outcome. No matter where you are on the spectrum of energetic profiles for diversity fatigue, leverage your leadership aptitude and potential. That unified effort and desire for lasting progressive change may be just what is needed to finally put the fatigued diversity conversation to rest.