Stop Fighting: Know When To Walk Away From Your DEI Gig

This week, I am sharing an important work lesson that I learned this year — 2021. I stopped fighting.

Over the course of my career, I have been in many fights. The other party might not have known we were fighting, but in my mind, we were.

Who was I fighting? Organizations. People in organizations. Either in a workplace where I led projects or as a consulting partner.

Why was I fighting? To convince a person or people that they needed to change their practices to be internally who they said they were — externally.


One of my favorite quotes says it best:

“We recognize that a commitment to becoming a multicultural, inclusive, and (racially equitable) organization is not the same as actually becoming one.”

Inspired by “Policy Statement on Undoing Institutional Racism”
Children’s Alliance (WA), 2009

Quote from Joanna Shoffner Scott

The lesson I learned in 2021 was to stop fighting. It has been a hard lesson because I am naturally a determined person. Once a person described my style as, “kind but don’t underestimate her — she can see what you have going on and knows where she thinks you can go.” All true.

This year changed all of that. The pandemic and the losses I have suffered as a result have shifted my thinking. Our time is precious and limited. I realize I no longer have time to fight.


What exactly does that mean?


It means that I am only going to work with a certain client who already knows they need to change and is prepared to do so. It means that I am upping my assessment game so that I can see more clearly whether an organization is box-checking or serious about making racial equity a practice. My time is limited, and I want to spend it helping others who both need and want my help. I have always said that at a basic level, equity work takes courage and willingness. I am never afraid to push. But I — as a consultant — cannot want more for an organization than it can envision for itself. I am saying goodbye to that fight.

Part of my work is about sharing lessons; so dear change agent, who is working so hard inside a nonprofit organization, a company, or philanthropy stop fighting, take a step back, and assess your struggle.

Ask yourself: Is it worth your peace? Your sleep? Your joy?




Change that one organization rejects, another will accept readily.


This year has sharpened my sense of when to hold, fold, and walk away. (Shout out to Kenny Rogers – may he rest in peace). As this year closes, do the work to create boundaries around yourself and your DEI practice. Determine how much of your precious cup that you are willing to pour out on behalf of any organization (including the one you work in), then protect the rest of your goodness, your peace, your talent, and most importantly — your time.


Author: Joanna Shoffner Scott
Dr. Joanna Shoffner Scott is an experienced management consultant specializing in helping organizations realize their racial equity aspirations. She has consulted with more than 50 organizations in the public and private sectors. Clients and former clients include organizations from workforce development, research, public policy, social services, place-based community sector collaboratives, government agencies, and philanthropies. She is the founder and Principal of Stamey Street Consulting Group. Joanna helps organizations move forward who are stuck in their racial equity journey.

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