Diversity Fatigue and Organizational Performance

Question: How can diversity fatigue be defined?

The authors of the article focus on the concept of diversity fatigue. They mention that diversity fatigue develops when there is an inconsistency between what the managers talk about and what they actually think. In other words, when managers promote the ideas of diversity in the workplace but do not believe that workplace diversity is beneficial for the company’s performance. At the same time, the authors of the article mention that diversity fatigue may be the result of too much diversity, as people do not have much in common and fail to operate as a team. Farmanesh et al. (2020) also provide a definition of fatigue as emotional tiredness. However, the authors fail to define diversity fatigue as a concept, even though they created 32 questions to measure it.

Quote: I find the following quotation especially compelling when talking about workplace diversity promotion:

“Within academic realm of university, when preparation to incorporate diversity is confronted by barriers or confined by politically inappropriate commentary, or support from senior levels is absent, diversity fatigue can occur. As a result, all the endeavor and commentary will serve as a mere propaganda and thereby, making employees and students resent hierarchy, which inevitably generates a sense of distrust, weariness and questioning” (Farmanesh et al., 2020, p. 15).

I think that these two sentences are the key to the content of the article. In this quotation, the authors explain that the effect of workplace diversity can be undermined by an inadequate implementation. In the textbook, the authors make it clear that workplace diversity can be beneficial to organizational performance. In particular, workplace diversity can lead to improved innovation, employee retention, and an improved image of the brand. In my experience, I realized that, when working with a culturally diverse team, it was easier to come up with non-standard solutions to problems, as people could think outside the box. As a result, we were more effective as a team.

At the same time, Farmanesh et al. (2020) state that workplace diversity may have negative effects on workplace diversity. The textbook described that increased diversity could lead to poor communication and greater potential for conflict. People with different cultural backgrounds may have different underlying assumptions and even speak a different language, which will create a barrier to communication. At the same time, if the cultural differences are significant, the team members are more likely to hurt each other’s feelings unknowingly, which leads to conflict. I had the experience of working in a culturally diverse team when some of the members felt left out due to poor knowledge of English. I can imagine how difficult it may be to work together when numerous people have problems communicating.

However, apart from the obvious negative effects of cultural diversity, Farmanesh et al. (2020) mention a crucial factor that contributes to the negative effects of cultural diversity. This was a new idea that I had not come across in any sources before reading this article. Farmanesh et al. (2020) talk about managerial hypocrisy when managers propagate the ideas of cultural diversity but fail to believe in what they say. As a result, the employees start to mistrust the idea of workplace diversity regardless of their own opinion. I think that it is only natural that managerial hypocrisy leads to a negative attitude towards workplace diversity and the company’s performance. Employees are prone to believe what their leaders believe. Thus, if the managers do not think that workplace diversity is beneficial, the employees are also likely to fail to believe that. As a result, the employees become emotionally tired of being told that diversity is good, which leads to diversity fatigue.

Talking Points

Below are the open-ended questions developed for further discussion:

  1. How would you define diversity fatigue?
  2. Why do you think managerial hypocrisy leads to diversity fatigue?
  3. How do you think diversity fatigue can be addressed?
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