Diversity Training Shouldn’t Be Comfortable

Evelina Silveira, President, Published Author, Public Speaker and Diversity Trainer

I remember hearing a clergyman one day talking about marriage and its ups and downs. He spoke about couples who argue commenting that: “If you don’t occasionally argue or disagree, you can’t possibly be speaking about anything important”.

The same can be said about diversity training. Your beliefs and values should be challenged and called into question. This is part of the learning process. Diversity training is just as much about personal growth as it is about gaining knowledge of others. If the trainer, has not aroused any uncomfortable emotions in you, there is a good chance that the following may have happened:

– You weren’t paying attention
– They stuck with “safe” topics.

Trainers who stick with “safe topics” do themselves and their trainees a disservice. Workplace diversity is very complicated. It is not easy for us to integrate many different types of people and expect them to get along. When you do not discuss the unpopular and controversial situations you are cheating your participants of the opportunity to learn how to deal with them and to begin the discussion. You make it seem like it should be so easy to do and why are they having so many problems?

The reality for the most part, trainers want to be liked. It makes it easier to get more business. But diversity training is not like other types of training. Some of it is based on our personal values and beliefs and that can be difficult to balance within a training session. Each person who comes to training will have a unique experience with diversity whether it be good or bad. A good trainer allows the bad to come through as well, and works with it rather than denounces it.

Next time you are hiring a diversity trainer, ask them whether they are willing to handle some of the really contentious workplace diversity issues that have come my way. For example, how would they feel about using the following experiences that have been presented to me in my work:

– A straight man who is harassed by a gay man
– A blind woman who bullies her immigrant co-worker because of his accent
– A First Nations woman who accuses you of discrimination because she does not meet the workplace standards
– An immigrant woman who wants to take you to the Ontario Human Rights Commission because you fired her for preaching over the phone.
– A General Manager who consistently makes racist and sexist remarks.

It is only by working through these real-life situations as described above will we make progress in how to deal with them. We need to abandon our political correctness that makes some groups as angels and others as devils. Diversity trainers should challenge themselves to use real-life workplace situations instead of labeling some groups as sacrosanct or untouchable. Creating unrealistic expectations of certain groups is an insult to the groups themselves and to the participants’ intelligence.

Next time, if you leave a diversity training session provoked or uncomfortable that might be a good thing. You should be taken out of your comfort zone with challenging workplace examples that can be used to create balanced and fair solutions for each situation.

Diversity at Work does not use political correctness as an excuse for excluding certain workplace diversity topics. Call us today for how we can help you get closer to your goal of inclusion. 519-659-4777 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 519-659-4777 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting

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