Do you think that diversity training is neccesary in the work place? Why or why not?
You might be interested in an extensive discussion among some experts on this issue. On NPR's Talk of the Nation, there was a radio program on this very issue. I have provided the link to the transcript of the discussion. If you are interested in seeing a very poor example of diversity training, you might want to look at the episode of The Office, in which the boss attempts to do some in-house diversity training. This episode might be available on-line, or if you have cable, it might be available On Demand.
Having seen any number of diversity training programs in my years as an employment discrimination attorney, I have to say that for the most part, I have a very low opinion of them. Like one of the previous responders, I am convinced that one has to rub elbows with many different kinds of people to learn to get along with them. There is just no substitute for experience.
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I have never had much respect for diversity training. I do not know how that is related to the fact that I am multi-racial myself. To me, there is no way that training can teach you how to deal with people of different ethnic groups anymore than you can be trained to deal with every single person you meet.
Diversity training also implies that there is some single way to treat all people of some ethnic group. If people are individuals, then the whole idea of diversity training is pointless.
The utility of diversity training is limited, in my opinion. While ethnic and gender tensions within a workplace can negatively affect productivity and teamwork, and needs to be addressed, I have never known many co-workers from any background to take such training seriously.
What does seem to be more effective is diversity experience. That is, building a workforce that is diverse in nature, and at all levels, so that your daily working experience is on a level of relative equality with a diverse population. Over the long term, I believe this would have a greater effect on reducing tensions.
The problem with having diversity training is that it automatically implies that there IS a difference between the members of an organization, and that the difference IS a potential problem for which the training is given. Therefore, the organization concedes that it will focus on the differences and not the similarities of the members of the organization. If this is the case, then the institution is not operating under the basic paradigms of social theory, in which all members become one under the same mission and vision. Therefore, it is scary to think of the repercussions that this will bring if it happens.
Diversity training is effective if it is used to point out cultural stereotypes or generalizations in a way of refuting them, but with our political-correct society, this is difficult to do without offending someone. Furthermore, it is not appropriate to assume that one group of people is all the same because they are of a certain race or origin.
I don't think diversity training can accomplish what it supposedly sets out to do which is to create a safe environment for diversity. People have to have tolerance and intelligence first, and no amount of "diversity training" can replace either.
The world has become a smaller place I once heard said. This simply means that we are now able to interact with more cultures than ever before. Travel and computers have enabled us to work directly with people from diverse cultures. Knowing cultural mores can be very helpful in the workforce.
When I attended college in Germany I had an Arabic teacher. I was taking Algebra. He would never look me in the eye, and he never responded to my questions. There were only two females in the class and the rest were men. He always responded to them. We became very upset and went to the administrative staff. They explained to me that he was an excellent math teacher but he did not culturally believe that women should be in college and especially not in math or science classes.
The response in Germany was to change my classmate and I to a different teacher. Had this happened in America he would have had to learn about our culture and known that to keep his job he needed to work with females as well.
The problem goes both ways though. My freind is a Muslim and very devout. He was hired at a factory and certain times each day he would go in the yard to pray. He always tried to find a private place so as not to appear as a spectacle or make a statement. He moved to America to escape discrimination.
People on his job thought that he was anti-social and just never wanted to hang-out with them. He was raised that when one works, one works, when one prays, one prays, and when one socializes, one socializes. Once the workers learned more about his culture they began to find out what a nice guy he was, but it would have helped had they been better prepared and him be better prepared.