May 18, 2023
Diversity Fatigue Summit

DEI fatigue in dominant groups – a case study of coaching for Inclusive Leadership

May 18, 2023 8:15 PM CET BUY TICKETS

DEI fatigue can show up in various groups, including members of dominant culture with access to power and privilege. The below case study explores such an example through the lens of leadership coaching. The client is a multinational company, provoding financial services in EMEA; white male, senior management, privileged in most if not all regards.

Challenge: While the client was overall supporting the company’s vision of DEI, he also experienced DEI fatigue which showed up in some foot-dragging, giving low priority to DEI-related decisions and his question “When can we just come back to business as usual?”

Desired outcome:

  1. Organizational objective: Developing Inclusive Leaders at all levels of the company, getting middle managers practice Inclusive Leadership on a daily basis
  2. Individual objective: Re-framing DEI in a way that is not creating DEI fatigue showing up as pushback & reluctance

Themes of sessions:

  • Power and Powerlessness
  • Threat to individual identity
  • Threat to social identity

Tools & Techniques. Coaching conversation went through 4 phases:
1) Surfacing reality
2) Recognize impact on self, others and organization
3) Explore emotions
4) Create new narratives and practices

An important element in these sessions was working with the concept of “Power, Rank and Privilege” and engaging with it not from a sense of obligation (“I have no choice”) but rather from a sense of purpose and individual commitment. The reason that sessions focused on privilege itself was because it is privilege that conditions us how we think of ourselves in relation to people who have less structural power. We worked on recognizing how privilege is structural and not a sign of individual goodness/badness. The client reframed how he engaged with his privilege: instead of guilt, shame, defensiveness and entitlement, he explored how he could own his privilege and steward privilege across different levels of hierarchy within his organization.

Implemented action plan of the client:

1) Learn about privilege and social dynamics across differences in power
2) Own his privilege: Working with diversity wheel to recognize in which areas he has power & privilege
3) Verbalize his motivation to model Inclusive Leadership
4) Understand that his support of DEI and practice of Inclusive Leadership is not about fixing & saving members of disadvantaged groups
5) Publicly align with members of groups who have less privilege
6) Create psychological safety with middle managers and normalize sharing DEI challenges
7) Sharing the lead with other people in the organization to move towards more inclusion & equity
8) Establish regular meetings with middle managers to discuss needs and find common ground between seemingly competing priorities
9) Adopt inclusive processes to get a sense of success and emphasize long-term mindset to create change in culture.
Beatrix Eder Beatrix Eder Coaching