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Team-Building: Recognizing and Dealing With “Diversity Fatigue,” Part 1
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Team-Building: Recognizing and Dealing With “Diversity Fatigue,” Part 1 - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Recognizing and Dealing With “Diversity Fatigue,” Part 1

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: Recognizing and Dealing With “Diversity Fatigue,” Part 1

The best of us actually look forward to another session of diversity training, but many of us, no matter our opinions on diversity in the workplace, bite our tongues, sigh, and perhaps roll our eyes.

It’s not that we don’t value diversity; nor do we think we know everything we need to know about it. Rather, these sessions tend to repeat themselves, pounding into us what we already know in a manner that doesn’t really address the issues. We want to understand our colleagues, whatever their backgrounds. But these training sessions aren’t really teaching us how to do that, and they don’t acknowledge enough of the pitfalls, those things that really have us rolling our eyes in the privacy of our cubicles.

Most importantly, there doesn’t seem to be room for any of us, in a non-judgmental environment, to express those aspects of workplace diversity that make us uncomfortable. And we all have certain discomforts when it comes to working with people who aren’t like us.

In How to Work With and Lead People Not Like You: Practical Solutions for Today’s Diverse Workplace, author Kelly McDonald describes gives a name to these feelings: diversity fatigue. “It’s not that people don’t respect different cultures, races, ethnicities, and norms,” she writes. “It’s just that there has been so much focus on diversity that people are simply tired of the subject, even though it’s an important one.”

For those of us who will admit to some amount of diversity fatigue, McDonald offers a few assurances. First, we are not alone. To some degree, we all feel this way. Second, it’s normal for us to feel discomfort. And third, we’re not bad people if we “struggle to function effectively with diverse coworkers.”

Without getting into specific political positions, it’s worth pointing out that diversity fatigue plays a part in today’s political climate in the United States. People of one political stripe are encouraged by certain societal changes, but feel these changes aren’t happening quickly enough. People of another stripe recognize that the changes we’ve accepted have come very quickly, and feel that they’re often villainized for taking a moment to adjust, concerned as well that certain positive aspects of our culture are being taken away.

Because most of us are professionals who know how to get along in the office, wherever we find ourselves along the political spectrum, we find ourselves biting our tongues, and that all by itself is fatiguing. Who doesn’t get tired of holding ourselves in check when something meaningful and important is being discussed? The unfair paradox is that the more we care about workplace dynamics, the more fatigued we become and the more likely we are to wish we could be anywhere other than at this quarter’s diversity training session.

In part 2 of this topic, we’ll look at ways managers and the rank-and-file can address our diversity fatigue in a healthy way and hopefully shift our perspectives so that the “diversity” might give us a more positive feeling.


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Team-Building: Recognizing and Dealing With “Diversity Fatigue,” Part 1 - Executive Leadership Articles

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