Podcast: How to Know When to Walk Away From Your DEI Gig

if you are tasked with making DEI a reality, you may find yourself stuck in the gap between your commitment and your organization’s inaction. You are not alone if you are spinning your wheels and close to burnout.

About the podcast — My Reason Why 

As a Black woman with meaningful experience in the race equity space, I have seen it all. Like many DEI practitioners, my work began as an “other duties as assigned” addition to my role. I’m grateful for the path on which that “duty” set me. However, years of consulting and coaching, combined with that entry, have helped me understand some hard truths. I’m ready to share the candid stories and lessons that have inspired me to dedicate this part of my career to being a resource for those willing AND working to make sustainable, equitable organizational change.

Episode 001

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Show Notes – Download pdf

Our new podcast series is focused on the rapidly expanding yet under-resourced DEI sector. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are publicly center stage in strategic plans and PR messaging. But if you are tasked with making DEI a reality, you may find yourself stuck in the gap between your commitment and your organization’s inaction. You are not alone if you are spinning your wheels and close to burnout. Let’s get into it.


Stick it out or pack it up? [5:55]
Here are four realities to consider:


Frustration [5:56]
A key factor for frustration for DEI practitioners is staying in the explainer role for too long. It is exhausting to feel like you are fighting over and over and over. Especially when you know you do not — and should not — solely own the fight.


Opportunity costs [6:56]
How do you want to spend your time? Saying yes to one client or role might mean missing a different opportunity. Stopping the fight doesn’t necessarily mean quitting the work altogether. Instead, stopping the fight is a chance to refocus on the purpose of the struggle.

Is the purpose to be better? If not, reevaluate what you are saying yes to and the what and when of the resulting personal sacrifice.

Tension [8:27]
When the public and private stories don’t match, the disconnect creates tension. DEI practitioners can find themselves holding the tension between internal and external organizational identities.


Timing [9:12]
Consider the newness of the role and organizational culture and structure. Most DEI goals are housed within new roles contained in previously existing systems. Wholesale change is a large charge for departments that are often “the smallest and least resourced from a budget and staffing perspective,” according to the article from the Wall Street Journal: “Demand for Chief Diversity Officers Is High. So Is Turn Over.”


What can you do? [11:50]
Recognize that it doesn’t have to be this way and act. Here are some steps:

Slow down, pause, and reflect.
Decide how much you are willing to give. This is internal to you. No one can decide this but you. Write it down.
Determine what your line is. What is your point of “no”?


Reflections from the field: [16:23]
👉Journaling and reflecting during a pause can be key. Learning from other experiences might also tweak your perspective on a situation or the dynamics you are currently experiencing in a DEI role. Here are some earned insights for you:

👉Change that one organization will reject, another will embrace readily and with vigor.

👉There is a difference between committing to becoming different, more inclusive, anti-racist, or racially equitable AND doing the work to get there.

👉Spot this gap between commitment and action. The faster you can recognize that gap and its dynamics, the easier it will be to assess what the role will require of you.

👉As a DEI practitioner, it is not your responsibility to have enough courage for both yourself and the organization and/or change you are working to progress. Know the limitations, yours and theirs.


Parting guidance
Over-giving leads to burnout. So I’ll say it again, STOP. Stop the fight. Pause. Get clear on your personal “why.” Assess and reassess your struggle with your current role. If it is connected to the gap between an organization’s commitment to DEI and its actions, ask yourself this: How does this fight fit my personal “why”? How much am I willing to give, and what do I need to do to protect myself and my ability to continue the work?

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