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Why workplace discrimination still happens despite training

With so much awareness into the fair treatment of women and other minority groups, many employers are taking action to reduce problems in the workplace. While this is a positive step, it is not enough unless it entails the right kind of changes. Otherwise, the program can backfire.

Harvard Business Review reports on how diversity training is not only ineffective but also harmful. This may explain why you are still facing discrimination at your job, or even more than before, despite your employer’s efforts to eliminate the problem.

Why diversity training does not help

The problem with such training is not the intent but the approach. The courses are mandatory, already putting employees at the defensive for having to participate in something they do not want to. The tone is usually negative as well, such as focusing on preventing expensive lawsuits. The presentation involves a list of do’s and don’ts that people resist or forget quickly.

The combination of these factors results in workers who may feel resentment toward minority groups and the desire not to cooperate in order to show autonomy. Other methods – such as tests for applicants, performance reviews for employees and complaint processes – also lead to an opposite outcome than intended.

Effects on specific groups

Another unintentional effect is the perspective some white males gain from diversity efforts. They believe that these changes guarantee women and minorities are receiving fair treatment, thus making them less likely to perceive and respond to continuing discrimination.

A more extreme viewpoint is that some white males believe that equality actions lead to them becoming the targets of injustice, known as reverse discrimination. Feeling threatened then influences their thoughts and behaviors toward others.

Minorities do not receive much confidence and comfort either in companies that promote themselves as being fair and inclusive, perhaps because they already suspect that training does not produce much positive change.

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