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Everyone knows the feeling of burnout at work.
But imagine being the only person of a particular identity and piling that on top of your other workplace demands. That exhaustion is called “representation burnout,” and it’s taking a toll on marginalized groups in workplaces around the world.
“Marginalized groups, in particular, often have to work twice as hard for the same amount of recognition,” said Marah Lidey, co-founder of Shine, a popular self-care app that provides daily motivational messages and text and audio tools that cover many self-improvement topics.
Shine’s co-founders, Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi, both experienced representation burnout early on in their careers, and that’s what inspired them to start Shine and help build a community for those who may feel disconnected from their peers. Fortunately, there are steps that minorities in the workplace can take to reduce their chances of experiencing representation burnout.
“As someone from a marginalized community, you may feel like you need to do more, work harder, do better to keep up, but boundaries could help you decide what to share and not share, or what money you’re willing to spend or not spend,” Lidey said. She explained that sometimes a boss might ask you to buy that flight and then get reimbursed for it, with the assumption that you could afford to buy the flight. Instead of feeling the pressure from these kinds of assumptions, one can explain, “I’m going to need to have this kind of structure set up if I work in this role.”
Lean on allies
Lidey also encouraged minorities to lean on allies who are not the minority and who can communicate your struggles or challenges with their counterparts. “If you’re a woman of color struggling with how people identify you around your race, speaking to a white ally who can talk to other white colleagues can help take the burden off you,” Lidey said.
Know your triggers
If walking in a room where no one looks like you could be a trigger for representation burnout, it’s important to fully understand that and take certain actions because of that. Hirabayashi explained that one strategy could involve proactively knowing about the spaces you’re entering to see if you want to be in those rooms.
Take digital breaks
Taking a mental health day could do wonders for your state of mind—and the same goes for digital breaks where you get off of social media and ignore what’s happening in the news. “We remind people that it’s okay to disengage and get off the platform; you don’t have to be on all the time, and in fact, that’s pretty draining,” Hirabayashi explained.
A popular saying among the Shine team is “go big and go home.” That means working really hard in the office and starting and ending meetings on time but remaining just as committed to resting and recharging when at home. Resilience can also be very helpful when trying to avoid representation burnout. “Drive is important, but showing the ability to bounce back from adversity can be even more valuable,” Lidey said.