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Diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace

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6 Diversity fatigue

According to Waldon (2020), diversity fatigue was a phrase first used in the US in the 1990s to describe ‘the stress associated with management’s attempts to diversify the workforce through recruiting and retention efforts’. In recent times it has gained a broader definition to include ‘people just feeling tired of talking about diversity, or the lack thereof.’

Photograph of a person at a laptop looking fatigued.

Waldon goes on to describe three different experiences of diversity fatigue:

  • distress for those who are committed to the work but see inadequate results
  • irritation for those who see diversity work as being merely for the sake of political correctness
  • frustration for those who see it as a strategy used by organisations solely to enhance and further their brand.

Marr (2019) suggests that ‘when good intentions and hard work don’t produce results both leaders and employees begin to feel diversity fatigue. […] At its core it is about losing hope that the status quo can change.’ She goes on to advise three ways to overcome diversity fatigue:

  • diagnose the specific diversity and inclusion (D&I) challenges the company is facing rather than relying on a standard set of programmes or initiatives
  • encouragement from the top is crucial, but organisations also need to ensure functional and business unit leaders are reinforcing the importance of D&I in daily operations
  • make diversity and inclusion relevant to everyone in the organisation, not just diverse groups.

Activity 4 Perceptions of diversity training

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes for this activity.

Considering your own organisation (or one you know well), reflect on how diversity training is presented by your leaders and perceived by your colleagues.

Does the process currently feel like a box ticking exercise?

Does the workforce receive feedback on the impact of the training, such as actions participants have gone on to undertake?

Is there anything that could be done differently?


You’ve learned how important it is for the leaders of your organisation to own this agenda and be seen to support it – is that something you were able to identify and reflect on?

Feedback is an important part of the process as people are more likely to engage with something when they can see how it will benefit them and their organisation.

In the final section this week, you’ll look at some of the barriers to diversity that an organisation might find it more difficult to influence.