Is diversity training more harmful than good?

In Ticking all the boxes Munira Mirza (BBC News: Magazine) considers whether sending workers on race awareness courses inflame workplace tensions that never used to exist.

During the article a particular "race awareness" training course is outlined and described. More specifically, the aim is to give "nice blue-eyed white folks the opportunity to find out how it feels to be something other than white". Ultimately, the theory is that if people are careful about what they say, workplace relations will be more relaxed and productive.

Whilst later admitting that this particular course may not be representative of all race awareness training courses, Mirza goes onto consider what diversity training actually delivers. Despite any long-term data to gauge the success of such training programmes, it would appear that problems arise when workers feel under pressure to change their views in such a short period of time - one problematic outcome is that workers then go onto turn the anger on themselves because of their own prejudices.

I can't help feeling that a problem with diversity training is very much like any kind of brief training for big issues, i.e. see previous posting on training front-line staff to deal with abusive and often violent customers. In effect, it may just be that the anger comes from designing training courses that make out that the problem is owned by the individual (in this case potentially racist views) when in reality racist views, or an kind of prejudice, is the result of very long periods of socialisation, sometimes harking back to childhood. In other words, one-day training courses may be fine for learning skills such as how to use the Internet more effectively, etc. but expecting people to change habits they may not even be aware requires more than a quick course courtesy of their employer.

No comments: