Kimberly Frazier, ACA’s 71st president

In last month’s column, I outlined my three focus areas for the upcoming year and challenged you to consider if the places you work foster justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI). This month I want to continue this conversation and focus on the next steps you take after you discover the places you work, provide services or volunteer do not align with your own personal advocacy and JEDI goals. 

It can be jarring to discover an organization’s goals do not match your own, especially when it comes to issues related to JEDI. This discovery often results in one of three things: The person stays at an organization in the hopes that the organization will change its vision. They lead the charge and create JEDI initiatives that align more with their own personal vision. Or they decide to leave the organization and search for an entity that does align with their goals and mission.

How a person responds will affect them personally and professionally, so every person needs to decide what they will or won’t accept and consider the short- and long-term impact of their decision. If a person selects to stay at an organization whose goals don’t align with their own, they should consider the following:

  • How are you finding meaning and purpose in the work you do for that entity or organization?
  • How does working for or representing that organization affect your mental health?
  • How will working for this organization affect how others perceive your own personal visions and goals related to JEDI? 
  • How does staying at this organization potentially promote a misleading view that this organization is focused on diversity when it actually lacks sensitivity, knowledge, training or bandwidth on JEDI issues? 
  • How could this organization’s policies lead to further trauma, mental health issues, and opportunities for injustices and discrimination for those currently working at the organization? 

If someone chooses to lead the charge and create JEDI initiatives that mirror or are more aligned with their personal beliefs and goals, they should consider the following:

  • How will this new task of changing the organization’s culture around JEDI affect your time and energy to complete other tasks related to your personal and professional life as well as your work-life balance?
  • If your current job, place of business or volunteer entity did not think JEDI was important before, will it be willing to provide support, resources and so on to your newly created JEDI initiatives?
  • How will creating initiatives that often deal with things that happen to you and people you know personally affect the mental and professional health of you and those you know? 

I often ask my mentees or others grappling with the dilemma of choosing to stay, create change or leave, “What will success look like and how will you measure if you have successfully achieved the goal of establishing JEDI initiatives at your work?” I also ask them to think about what it means for them and the communities they serve if the entities they work for are not open to creating JEDI initiatives or if the organizations are willing to create these initiatives but are not willing to apply them (i.e., appearing to be about diversity but not making actual changes to be inclusive). 

Ultimately, we must all think about what our purpose is and what we find most meaningful about the work we do. And we also need to explore why we are often willing to stay in places that may not align with who we are personally and professionally. What is holding us back to be more aligned with ourselves? Why are we compelled to think we must stay and endure, rather than flourish and be our best selves?

Last month, I challenged you to reflect on the JEDI polices and missions of the professional organizations which you belong, work and serve. This month I challenge you to reflect on any organization you belong, work or serve whose mission and policies do not align with your own personal and professional JEDI mission. And if you are in places that do not align with your personal JEDI mission, what toll has that taken on your personal and professional growth?