Hate incidents are creating a burnout crisis among Asian and Asian American professionals, new research reveals. Here’s what we need to do next

A candlelight vigil is held on Jan. 25, following a mass shooting in Monterey Park.
Ray Chavez - MediaNews Group - The Mercury News - Getty Images

The beginning of 2023 was marked by deep tragedy in both the Asian and Black communities. The killing of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols sparked outrage, with renewed calls for systemic change to police violence. Soon after, 11 people were killed while celebrating Lunar New Year in Monterey Park, which sent shock waves throughout Asian communities and triggered a painful reminder of the 2021 Atlanta spa shootings that killed six Asian women.

This state of grief and outrage is a place we’ve been to before. We felt it deeply three years ago after the tragic death of George Floyd, which resulted in a racial reckoning for corporations nationwide to look inward and do better. With millions of eyes on them, businesses vowed to make diversity, equity, and inclusion a real priority. Since then, 71% of companies reportedly implemented DE&I initiatives, with roughly $7.5 billion spent globally on those programs in 2020 alone.

And yet, three years later, corporate America’s stated commitment to DE&I is a slipping priority, being tested against a recessionary backdrop and widespread layoffs. Talent is still bringing in trauma from the outside world and facing headwinds in the workplace. For AAPI professionals, some of these headwinds go unseen.

In 2020, anti-Asian hate drastically increased by 164%, and as the community reels, many hate crimes go unreported. To date, the Stop AAPI Hate coalition has tracked more than 11,000 self-reported hate incidents impacting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders since March 2020. 

At Coqual, a leading global think tank, there was an urgent need to look closer at what the AAPI community was facing. Coqual’s recent study, Strangers at Home: The Asian and Asian American Professional Experience, finds nearly half of Asian and Asian American professionals say it’s very important that their companies address the hate and violence against their communities, but only one in four feel their company is vocal enough. 

Additionally, the report finds that 63% of Asian and Asian American professionals said the ongoing violence negatively impacted their mental health and nearly half said it also negatively affected their physical health. Many individuals don’t feel safe partaking in routine, daily activities – going out for a jog, sitting in the park bird watching, ringing a doorbell, or visiting a spa or local church. That anxiety and fear carry over into the workplace. Coqual finds that 62% of Asian professionals don’t feel safe commuting to and from work. 

Other underrepresented communities can relate to living in fear of daily acts of racism. The Black community has battled racism for centuries. It’s time for leaders to promote solidarity as a way of overcoming barriers in the workplace. Coqual’s research finds that Black employees, more than any other group surveyed, believe companies should be addressing violence against the AAPI community. The Black community knows how important it is for leaders to respond to racial injustice, and the shared experiences of racism between our communities is an opportunity to foster solidarity in the workplace.

However, we can’t meaningfully support employees without dismantling the tropes and racial hierarchy that exist for both communities in the workplace.

For example, the model minority myth perpetuates the idea that Asian and Asian American professionals often outpace and outperform their Black and Latinx colleagues, and, therefore, don’t need as much support. Coqual’s research finds the contrary to be true. Nearly one in three Asian and Asian American women reported feeling work-related burnout and Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the least likely racial group to say, “People like me are in leadership positions at my workplace.”

Not only do these tropes fuel divisions, but they also make it less likely for leaders to provide the support that traditionally marginalized professionals need. Leaders must look inward and revisit the commitments made in 2020. They must analyze the internal dynamics that create barriers to success and incorporate inclusive leadership and equity principles into the executive toolkit.

We can’t wait for another reckoning to recommit to making our workplaces more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. Let’s start the work now by doubling down on these initiatives, not trimming them. Let your actions speak for themselves, rather than signal a performative pledge to your employees. Progress, growth, and meaningful change require investment, and these investments pay off. 

Lanaya Irvin is the CEO at Coqual (formerly Center for Talent Innovation), a 19-year-old leading global think tank that conducts research on workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion and advises the world’s largest corporations. 

Manjusha (Manju) Kulkarni is a co-Founder of Stop AAPI Hate and executive director of AAPI Equity Alliance (AAPI Equity), which serves and represents the 1.5 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Los Angeles County.

The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

More must-read commentary published by Fortune:

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, our newsletter full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better, from the Fortune Well team. Sign up today.

Read More

Great ResignationClimate ChangeLeadershipInflationUkraine Invasion