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Author's profile photo Colin Scuffins

The DEI Fatigue Is Real: How to Overcome It and Create a Culture of Belonging in Your Workplace

Words matter, as we all know.

Recently, I attended an insightful online workshop hosted by the Irish chapter of Pride@SAP (whose beautiful artwork adorns this post). The topic was the importance of using inclusive language in and outside of the workplace. It reminded me of the undeniable power of words.

The session was not primarily about being politically correct or avoiding offense. Rather, the workshop demonstrated to me — with helpful input from attendees — that inclusive language is about creating a sense of belonging where everyone feels respected and valued for who they are.

“I Can’t Say Anything!”

I was reminded that “inclusive language” is not just a buzzy phrase, it’s an opportunity to create a more compassionate society. By practicing it, we can help to cultivate trust, collaboration, and innovation within teams and organizations. And who doesn’t want a culture of respect and empathy in their workplace?

That said, I understand that some people feel overwhelmed by the need to be mindful of their language and how it impacts others. As Forbes recently reported, with the superbly satirical title, “I Can’t Say Anything!”, this can lead to what’s known as DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) fatigue.

But let’s take a moment to consider this: if you are feeling fatigued by the need to use inclusive language, imagine how tiring it must feel to be constantly excluded or disrespected due to the language that others use. How does this impact well-being, performance, and potential?


Let inclusive language be your signature style

As individuals, we all have a responsibility to create inclusive and equitable workplaces and societies. If you are an organization leader, the responsibility is even greater, because the power is in your hands — or should I say, words — to set the tone for your teams.

One example is that we can make everybody in our teams feel like they belong by doing something as simple as adding our pronouns to our email signatures.

Another idea is to begin meetings with an inclusive greeting such as “Hi Team/Folks/Everybody” rather than versions of “Hi Guys!” (such as, “Hi Lads!”, which is so ubiquitous in Ireland that farmers use the phrase to greet their cows, as the Irish presenter of the workshop amusingly pointed out). See the links below for the many other ways you can impact colleagues in a positive way with your choice of words.

Inclusive language avoids assumptions, stereotypes, or judgments about people based on their identity or background. It recognizes and honors the diversity of human experiences and perspectives. To not move with the times in this regard is to side with the status quo. And, in my humble opinion, leaving people out of the conversation is so last century.

See the SAP Diversity and Inclusion Report for 2022

The timing of the workshop I attended coincided with the SAP 2022 Diversity and Inclusion Report, which I would recommend reading to see the positive impact of the company’s strategy in this regard last year.

I encourage you also to join me in learning more about inclusive language. Here are some other resources that I found helpful:

Thanks very much for reading and joining me on this journey toward recognizing the power of inclusive language to shape our world in a positive way. Have a wonderful day. 

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