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Minority Women and the Risk of Workplace Burnout

Race and the workplace offers a different set of challenges

It’s no secret that women in the workplace have a steeper hill to climb than their male counterparts. It’s also no secret that minorities climb an even steeper hill, and if you’re a minority woman – well, you know how tough it can be.

Even though we all know better, the old paradigm of discrimination is still alive and well in business, and if we are to succeed as minority women, we face a set of challenges above and beyond what any rational person would call reasonable.

It’s a fact that the deck is stacked against us, and it’s a fact that this can lead to stress and burnout. Perceived discrimination, whether intentional or not, does take a high toll, and the resulting burnout can be a barrier to personal success and good mental health. The playing field is not level, and we often suffer unduly because of it.

If you’re in a high-stress position in your industry, there’s a good chance you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve been there, and I want you to know you can climb that hill. I’d like to share with you some strategies to help you deal with discrimination at work.

Be confident, stand up, and make your voice heard

No matter who you are, people take notice when you show confidence in yourself and your ideas. You may feel reluctant to disagree, especially if yours is an unpopular opinion, but often these are times when it’s most important to speak up. Remember to be courteous; disagreeing doesn’t mean being disagreeable.

Build a strong interpersonal network

It’s important that you’re always networking with like-minded people. Building mutually-beneficial relationships not only helps us to achieve success climbing the hill; it can also provide us with sources of support from those who are sympathetic.

Know when to say no

You know your employer expects a lot from you, and you always give your best. Don’t be afraid to turn down projects that don’t have value for you, or don’t offer you the opportunity to do your best work. Focus on work that reflects your values, talents, and expertise, which will not only serve to help you create your personal brand, it will also provide you a sense of empowerment and self-confidence—two things that are critical for reducing burnout.three people discussing inside the conference room

Learn to deal with unintentional slights

Chances are you’ve experienced this before; remember that nice girl in college who was always so bubbly and kind and just amazed to no end that all you Asians are so good at math? These situations can be really tricky moments to navigate, and having a plan for addressing these unfortunate remarks helps a lot.

1. Slow the conversation down. Asking a question like “What do you mean?” is a good way to slow things down. The idea here is to nail down the stereotype being applied.

2. Dig a little deeper. Try to ferret out why the person accepts this stereotype. “Do you mean to say that all your Asian friends are good at math? Why do you think that is?” This will allow you to show them that what they’re saying is not really true at all and bust the stereotype for good.

3. Avoid shaming. People rarely respond well to shaming, and shaming someone who’s committed an innocent faux pas is a great way to alienate them and undermine the kinds of relationships you value. When you find yourself here, be sure to let them know you understand they meant no harm, but maybe they should think about x.

Deal with intentional offenses with dignity and humanity

When you’ve been the target of deliberately prejudiced acts, remove yourself from the situation if possible, and get control of your emotions before you respond. Use proper channels of action and maintain the moral high ground.

Most of all, it’s important that you understand that not everyone will accept you as you are or value your contributions. Some people will never change their minds about old stereotypes, and while this is quite unfortunate, it’s a good idea to avoid expending a lot of energy trying to change their minds for them.

It’s also a good idea to avoid expending energy on beating yourself up. You didn’t create their rotten mindset. You don’t have to put up with it either. It’s their responsibility to educate themselves and change.

Focus your energy on those who are interested in building the kinds of relationships that bear success. Use these strategies to help navigate discriminatory behavior, manage stress, and avoid burnout so that you can take care of yourself and reach your full potential.

Felicia Baucom
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