Exploring the pressures of being an inclusion & diversity professional

Ellen Edenbrow, our Inclusion & Diversity Consultant, and Rosie Clarke, our Head of Inclusion & Diversity Services (North), explore the pressures of being an EDI professional and how to avoid burnout.

Keep reading to learn more.

Being an inclusion & diversity professional is a unique role in an organisation. It is extremely varied, and the subject matter can be incredibly challenging for several reasons.

Inclusion & diversity professionals are inevitably talking about historic and societal injustices not only in the workplace but in society which therefore influence the workplace, culture and colleagues. But since we’re Inclusive Employers, we’ll stick to the workplace for now.

An inclusion & diversity professional’s day to day varies and is incredibly broad from exploring and investigating, disadvantaged customers, unbalanced senior leadership, people of different identities not getting promotions/jobs, customers being treated differently because of who they are, and even serious cases of discrimination and harassment.

Not only does the topic vary, but so does the work. They are also expected to analyse data, be communications and marketing experts and project managers.

The variety and seriousness of the subject matter create pressure on the inclusion & diversity lead to ‘fix’ complex societal injustices and can often lead to a feeling of being lost or not feeling they know enough to be great at the job.

On top of that, many inclusion & diversity leads themselves have varied identities, so as individuals they are also caught up in societal and workplace disadvantages. As a result of this concoction of professional and personal barriers, many colleagues experience burnout.

Ways to overcome burnout as an inclusion & diversity professional

The important thing for inclusion and diversity leads to remember is: no one knows everything. Even fellow inclusion & diversity professionals who we work with and are in awe of don’t have all the answers.

Even at Inclusive Employers, as full-time inclusion and diversity consultants, we admit we don’t know everything and on a daily basis learn from each other and our members around the world.

There are things that all I&D professionals can do to combat the pressure of needing to know all the answers.

Here is some advice on how to overcome burnout as an inclusion and diversity professional:

Push back when necessary

Many I&D professionals are lone wolves in a pack, and one person can only do so much in a day, week, and month. So, start saying no to meetings as you can’t be two in places/team calls at once (you could maybe try but I’m not sure even the tech will allow it).

Start engaging with the business for them to also own the responsibility of the inclusion agenda or strategy.

No other strategy or action plan in an organisation is owned by, and expected that it will be delivered by one person. Inclusion & diversity leads are only one piece on the chessboard – they need every other piece in order to win the game. And just like chess, I&D is complicated, strategic and not everyone understands!

Avoid back-to-back meetings

Have 45-minute meetings to allow for small actions in between, standing away from your desk, getting a drink etc. More meetings = more actions!

Find a safe space

Inclusion & diversity professionals are often very aware of complex political and societal injustices which can be incredibly heavy across a variety of identities, lived experiences, and communities.

Inclusion & diversity professionals should make sure they have people to share with such as colleagues they trust or friends/family who they can confide in. There’s a whole community of I&D colleagues on LinkedIn to connect with.

Give it time

Not knowing the answer straight away, isn’t the same as not being able to find out the answer. Inclusion & diversity professionals can say things like “I will find out for you” or “thanks for bringing this to my attention, I am going to go away and find out more about this”.

By taking this approach everyone is listened to and respected but the professional is given time to find the best answer or solution. 

Also, give yourself time! Put in some regular time in your diary to ‘action’ work and some time to develop yourself whether that’s an online course, one of our webinars or be curious and Google search something you want to know more about.

Be kind

Everyone will be coming at their day with different things going on their worlds. Don’t fall into the trap that we are all feeling the same. Give people space, be kind, be clear and allow people to just be.

Inclusion & diversity leads should be kind to themselves and remember progress is sometimes slow. Also, the work you’re doing will be supporting someone, you just might not see or hear about it.

The personal benefits of working in I&D

Even if you don’t know all the answers, knowing some answers changes lives. Your knowledge, kindness and time will make others feel seen, heard and appreciated.

There is no better thing to achieve each day. Inclusion and diversity professionals get the double benefit of supporting individuals and changing organisational cultures.

Changing organisations will make the working world better for those who come after us.

How Inclusive Employers can support you

When you don’t know the answers, Inclusive Employers can help. Here are some ways Inclusive Employers can help:

  • Utilise our members desk and ask all of our 300+ members about their organisations
  • Check out our resources and give access to them to your other colleagues so they can login and find the answers themselves
  • Drop an email to your account manager to see if they can help you – we’ll always do our very best!
  • Look ahead at all our webinars and book yourself in before your diary gets busy.

Many of our account managers have previously been internal I&D colleagues, so we understand what you’re facing, please feel free to be open with us. Ask your account managers to direct you to webinars/resources if you want to upskill yourself in any specific areas.