ERG Burnout and Why it’s Happening

By now you have seen, heard and probably experienced the ongoing workplace trend of The Great Resignation. As previously mentioned in a recent blog, it’s the actual workplace environment that is spurring this shift. Employees are expressing how burnt out, stressed and overwhelmed they are. On top of these conditions, Employee Resource Group members and leaders are experiencing that same workplace burnout, as well as burnout from advocating for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

What happens when your workplace staff are experiencing burnout?

The short answer is that your organization ends up losing out on talent, loyalty, innovation and it costs you more. If The Great Resignation is showing us anything, it’s that people are unafraid to leave, and they are tired of feeling stressed, underappreciated, undervalued and unsatisfied. If organizations cannot address the massive burnout that is happening, then we will continue to see millions of people continue to resign each month. 

How do ERGs get burnt out? 

After the tragic murder of George Floyd, we saw a massive public outcry regarding systemic racism. This spurred a new expectation for organizations to take a stand against systemic inequity, and led to a surge in DEI initiatives within the workplace. 

ERGs began to grow more in popularity, along with a new understanding that racism, religion, politics and trauma would no longer go undiscussed and unacknowledged in the workplace. The need for affinity, solidarity and allyship grew exponentially. But with this, coupled with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, came those that made the assumption that marginalized folks would be the ones educating others and comforting them throughout the process. This trend is not new, however it was greatly magnified. So now when people were advocating for DEI, they were forced into the burden of having to nicely tell others how they’ve been traumatized, as they were forced to relive their own trauma. And then they needed to comfort and validate those people along the way. It should go without saying that rehashing your own traumatic experiences is not easy, and significantly impacts your energy and mental health. Additionally, when you are also experiencing microaggressions and gaslighting, while being retriggered, you start to feel a sense of hopelessness and exhaustion. This is quite possibly why your ERG members are extremely burnt out. 

So what happens when your ERG members and leaders are triggered, anxious, stressed, burnt out and exhausted? 

Your ERGs fizzle out and disappear. When an ERG disappears, it negatively impacts all aspects of the business. 

  • Company loyalty
  • Retention
  • Recruiting
  • Hiring
  • Engagement
  • Innovation
  • Motivation 

ERGs help create a sense of belonging, understanding and they create access to mentorship and development that is more individualized and curated to an employee’s needs. They also help with recruiting, as representation is extremely essential to many, and can be great community exposure as well. ERGs add tremendous value to an organization and many people have expressed them as something they consider when deciding on a job opportunity. In short, ERGs and what they can provide are invaluable.

What can you do to help reenergize your ERGs? 

It is possible to revive your Employee Resource Groups if their members are burning out, or if the ERG itself has fizzled out. Below is a list of 5 action items to address ERG burnout. Keep in mind, these are jumping off points, not overnight fixes.  

  1. Understand how your people are feeling. Get an honest and accurate understanding of how your ERG members are feeling. If your organization’s ERGs have already fizzled out, consider surveying some of the members and leaders, and ask them why it ended. Keep in mind that some people may be afraid to speak up for fear that there will be retaliation, remember that people are already on edge in the workplace as it is. However, unless you have a true understanding of the current situation, just like with anything else in business, it’s very difficult to make strategic decisions and create solutions. 
  2. Offer a healing session, or other mental health resources. If your people are burnt out, it is probably because they are stressed, overwhelmed, anxious and feeling unsupported. Providing access to healing and mental health resources is a great first step in addressing these feelings, however, keep in mind that it is just a start.  
  3. Compensate your ERG leaders. This is a growing workplace trend and is an excellent way to show your people that you value their efforts and their work. Providing additional compensation also highlights your organization’s commitment to DEI. 
  4. Put together an ERG retreat. Retreats are an amazing way to get OUT of the office and be in a setting where you can hold space for one another. If you cannot manage to be in-person, virtual retreats are also possible.  
  5. Give recognition. Genuine and personalized ways that show you value your employees are very much appreciated. Customizing them to each person also shows that you are listening to your people and recognizing them as unique individuals who add distinct value to the workplace. 

To sum it up:

ERGs are an important part of creating belonging in the workplace. If your ERG members and leaders are experiencing burnout, or the ERGs themselves have fizzled out, investing in reenergizing and reviving them is an excellent step in shifting to a people-centric environment. Be sure to collect as much information as possible on how people are feeling, and keep in mind that these efforts will take some time. Addressing burnout is a process that involves healing and rebuilding trust and safety, however, if your organization invests and creates genuine initiatives, your people will feel it. 

If you need more information on energizing your ERGs and increasing employee engagement, consider our many tools, resources and services at ERGDynamics™ . We also offer healing sessions and coaching as well that can help revive your ERGs.

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