• Mabel Osejindu

Fatigue in the Workplace What kind?

I was reading an Instagram post on empaths and how they view and react to the often complex world around them, and came across the unique term ‘Compassion fatigue’. It essentially refers to a deep emotional and physical exhaustion leading to a diminished ability to empathise or feel compassion for others. Some may describe it as the negative cost of caring that leads to stress and levels of resentment and anger. The term intrigued me and I thought about what other potential societal issues do we as individuals similarly experience great levels of fatigue also. It compelled me to think about the various dimensions to fatigue other than physical i.e. social, emotional, and mental tiredness. Introverts may feel social fatigue from events with large groups of people, and there’s the mental fatigue doctors or teachers may experience having to make several decisions every day and concentrate for long periods of time. I wondered if people of diverse backgrounds experience fatigue from the challenges of racism, discrimination and social exclusion. In recent years, BAME individuals have had more opportunities to express the need for equality and the desperate need for more education on diversity and inclusion. But in the efforts in doing so, I’m sure I can attest to many, that one becomes weary and laden with the burden of having to fight for certain non-discriminatory rights and levels of decency on a daily and often hourly basis. How many times can one complain to their HR team that a member of staff uttered a hurtful and racially charged micro-aggression? Or raise that there is a sheer and evident lack of progression or promotions for Black and Asian employees based solely on the colour of our skin? How many times can one urge for different cultural and religious preferences to be acknowledged more in society? Or fight against the absence of high expectations for our children in their primary and secondary schooling? How many times can a diverse individual seek to endure the toxic work culture with their white or otherwise homogeneous workmates? Negative performance reviews, poor behaviour strategies by educational professionals or their invisibility in work meetings; the list could go on and on and on.

Black fatigue is a thing. Asian fatigue is a thing too. Some have even coined it ‘Blaxhaustion’. Just like anything in life, when you have to earnestly try to express your view, opinion or belief repeatedly to the same person or group of people every single working day and there to be no improvement or monumental change, it’s impossible to not grow frustrated and disgruntled. Having read over a multitude of articles from Black and Asian employees in the UK and their challenges in the workplace and larger society, it is clear that there is a wide spectrum ranging from micro-aggressions consisting of small, often unintentional implicit biases to blatantly racist behaviours and manners of conduct. Black and Asian employees are often encouraged to remain silent for fear of being labelled as overly sensitive, not being believed—or even losing their jobs! Why should the jobs and livelihoods of Black and Asian individuals be so fragile when discussions of race and equality are on the table? Let’s remind ourselves that the Office of National Statistics assert that the unemployment rate for Black African and Black Caribbean groups across the UK is more than twice the national average, while Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups have an unemployment rate of 10 per cent compared with 4 per cent for white groups. The racism and unfair employment practices operate on a three their level; applying for jobs; the interview stage and actually getting the job and working at the firm or organisation. But this isn't the only source of fatigue experienced. Black and Asian employees’ experience trauma from unpredictability of statements said towards them, the constant pressure to be on guard and questioning ourselves continually about how to respond to inequities in itself, is fatiguing. Each negative and racially charged incident seems to double up the levels of fatigue a person can experience. More importantly, it all takes a toll on one's health and well-being. The emotional toll of racism is hardly ever expressed fully in the workplace and the anxiety behind downplaying it or trying to overcome it, is hindering the emotional state of individuals from a diverse background. So many books document this level of fatigue and weariness including ‘Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind, Body, and Spirit’ by Mary Francis Winters, ‘Weary and Fatigued: Added Weight of Being Black’ by Clifton Wilks, ‘Blaxhaustion, Karens & Other Threats to Black Lives and Well-Being’ by Theresa Robinson and ‘You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience and the Black Experience: An anthology’ by Tarana Burke and Brené Brown.

In a 2011 study in fact by researchers, José A. Soto, Nana A. Dawson-Andoh, Rhonda BeLue studied the relationship between perceived discrimination and generalized anxiety disorder among African Americans, Afro Caribbeans, and non-Hispanic Whites and found that African-Americans who face chronic exposure to racial discrimination may have an increased likelihood of suffering a race-based battle fatigue. If you're anything like me, it could be that the very term diversity and inclusion is tiring to hear in and of itself. We see the adverts present more people from diverse backgrounds on our screens, we see the diversity of products sold to us and we see a somewhat shift in the language used to describe people of colour but what we are not seeing is the change in status at a societal level and the treatment of diverse individuals in interactions. In the workplaces, in communities, in schools and in public places. Diversity does not present itself as an advantage just for people from diverse backgrounds. Diversity ought to benefit an entire organisation and business by propelling more creativity, unity and innovation into the workplace and might I also add the contentment and longevity of the roles they occupy. Diversity at its root is a matter of respect and tolerance and yes, may we never grow tired of talking about diversity and inclusion. Yes, we may momentarily feel fatigued when we don't see enough change or enough awareness of differences in race, religion and culture, but we can recuperate and develop a community where we can go to renew our fight against discrimination and injustice. We can re-energise ourselves with the love and support we get from our own communities and use that to galvanise a more stoic battle against all racial discrimination in UK society.