How can we develop diversity training that fosters mutual respect?
There are many proponents and opponents of diversity training in the workplace, and almost as much variance of opinion in terms of how effective it is. According to Michael Bird, quoted in an article at eNotes/Wikipedia, successful diversity training benefits all members of a project team, increasing camaraderie and morale, minimizing potential conflict, and encouraging outside-the-box thinking, new approaches and unleashing creativity. Hans Bader, in the same article, claims that opponents of diversity training believe that such training actually works to accentuate and exacerbate differences between people and cultures, creating situations where people may be working as hard to avoid a conflict as to find a solution to a creative problem. Apparently, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to some extent, commenting in Fitzgerald v. Mountain States Tel & Tel. Co. (1995), that "diversity training sessions generate conflict and emotion" and that "diversity training is perhaps a tyranny of virtue.
In light of the death of Stephen R. Covey in mid-July, there has been a renewed interest in the corporate world in his 1989 blockbuster best-seller, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey was known around the world for his training in effective leadership and organizational culture; perhaps an organization would be wise to focus less on diversity training and instead look at "The Seven Habits" and/or similar training as carried out by the FranklinCovey company, or another such organization. Covey was a devout Mormon, but always reminded his audience that these habits were not the product of any religion; they are universal habits that govern a person's integrity, effectiveness, and relationships with others. Covey understood that at the foundation of many organization problems was distrust; indeed it can be the cancer that infects and affects an entire organization. If diversity training's purpose is to increase positive relationships and productivity, likely the same things could be be accomplished on a greater scale through Seven Habits training, a program that has improved trust, relationships and productivity in some of the most elite companies in cultures all over the world.