The road to winning a better workplace is filled with ups and downs. Learn how experienced organizers avoid burnout and foster solidarity with their co-workers while pushing for the changes they want to see.
Whether you’re just starting to think about organizing your co-workers or you’ve been at it for years, one thing is for sure: success doesn’t happen overnight. There will be lulls throughout the process where it feels as if the momentum has stalled. Don’t worry, this is totally normal. We talked to experienced workplace organizers to get their advice on how to avoid burnout when the going gets tough.
1. Support and encourage each other
Find ways to get together, either in person or virtually, for mutual support. A group chat on Signal or WhatsApp is a great way to do this. The discussions don’t just have to be about organizing, either. You can let off steam, collaborate, and offer advice and encouragement to help people get through the workday. One organizer told us that group chats have been a huge source of support: “Our jobs are exhausting. Being able to turn to the group for more than just organizing helps prevent burnout.”
2. Make it easy (and fun) to participate.
As you know all too well, you and your co-workers are busy and exhausted, likely because you’re working long hours at a demanding job. Luckily, there are many ways to get involved in organizing efforts, and it helps when you can accommodate people’s schedules and stay flexible. That could mean holding more than one meeting each week, so that co-workers can attend the one that fits their schedules. To boost participation, invite people to take on roles that align with their interests—for example, the writer in the group can work on PR and social media, while the super-organized person can lead the meetings. If someone is shy about public speaking, they can still contribute a powerful story that someone else can share publicly. And it’s okay if people need to step back on occasion. There will be a natural ebb and flow to the group size as schedules and responsibilities change. Let your co-workers know that they are always welcome to jump back in.
3. Transform obstacles into fuel.
When the boss fights back against your organizing efforts (and they most certainly will), it’s easy to feel discouraged. Instead of viewing this as an obstacle to progress, see if you can frame it as fuel for even more organizing. Talk to your co-workers about management’s response, and ask them how they feel. You might say, “Isn’t it unfair that management refused to meet with us? Are you as angry as I am?” Let these events galvanize you. The only reason the boss is pushing back is because they know they have something to lose, which is a sign that you have something to gain by standing firm.
4. Stay informed about your rights.
Keep up to date on labor laws in your state and the rights you have to organize your workplace under the National Labor Relations Act. As one organizer put it, “Education is power!” Remember that you’re protected under the law, and remind each other of these protections when you need a confidence boost. Circulating a newsletter among your co-workers is a great way to keep people informed and to help you stay vigilant in calling out illegal behavior from management.
5. Celebrate your wins.
The small victories are still victories! Maybe your boss has made one concession on your list of ten demands, or they’ve changed a policy after you and your coworkers filed a complaint with the NLRB. Even if you haven’t achieved all of your goals yet, it’s still important to celebrate these milestones. Give your co-workers credit for all of their hard work so far. “Kudos go a long way,” said one organizer we spoke with.
Looking for more advice on organizing your workplace? Talk with an EWOC organizer to get resources and support to help you win the changes you want to see at work.