What do you think of sensitivity training?

Some jobs require people to attend sensitivity training. Be it for gender, race, sexual identity, etc… I’ve had them at my places of work and they mostly were about getting to know other people and their differences.

Now for some people, I have heard stories where they go pretty deep and ask some uncomfortable questions or try to make a person feel “guilty” if they have some “privilege” like being say white, native born, english speaker, or male. Others have said they were tested and had to admit their privileges.

Here is a recent example from a college in California It’s #4 on their demands.

I have never encountered this. As I said most of mine were just some general information about differences and frankly it didn’t do much to change anyone since by that age, your pretty much set as you are. Sometimes it was also helpful in getting to know other people.

So I would like to ask, what sensitivity training have you gone thru?

Did you find any areas you disagreed with or were uncomfortable?

Do you think they changed anyones minds or helped people to get along better?

The company I currently work at celebrates diversity, which is probably why they hired in a fifty-something cis het white guy like me.

I have been through some “sensitivity training” seminars in my time and never had a problem with content or presentation. Since it all rolls back to “don’t be a jerk” and “consider that you might not realize you are being a jerk” (with a touch of “you are not the one who decides if you are being a jerk”) I’m generally okay.

Never had it. The concept sounds hilarious.

The seminars, at least ones I have attended were very useful. Lots of understanding about cross cultural communication and avoiding misunderstandings.

ETA: I am aware of and have no problems acknowledging my many privileges. And how someone else might not share the same world view if they don’t have/have different privileges.

I’ve done it twice, both times in a corporate setting. Some of it, both times, was irritating, but no more so than other pointless things I had to sit thru for work. I didn’t have to admit my privilege or anything, although I could have if I wanted.

It’s like the company feedback forms I get once in a while (“How are we doing?”) It is just a way for corporate to make it look like they care. I don’t.

I could have spent the time productively getting some real work done, but if corporate wants me to sit thru meetings with some chirpy HR type telling me that diversity is our strength, fine with me. Then I can go back to work in IT where almost everyone is white, Asian, or offshore.


The main thing that a lot of people who talk about “sensitivity training” these days need to become aware of, is that it is yet another of those labels that applies to far more than the purely commercialized thing that they hear about others having to go through at a job.

Most “sensitivity training” that takes place in WORK environments, isn’t designed to make sure people are actually “sensitive” or aware of the complex nature of humanity. That “sensitivity training” is designed primarily to allow the owners of the workplace to escape responsibility for the possible bad behavior of their employees. Nothing more than that.

ACTUAL sensitivity training, that is, education that allows you to increase your useful understanding of the vast sea of cultural differences in the world and to better integrate your OWN sensibilities in a way that will enhance your own comfort with, and enjoyment of life, is very different.

SOME workplace training sessions are much better than others, because SOME employers are willing to hire people who do the REAL training, rather than just hire someone to say “don’t be a jerk, here’s a list of things not to say, sign below.”

The thing that I thing that I took away from mandatory multicultural sensitivity workplace training was that you can’t expect to understand how other people will interpret the words that are coming out of your mouth.

Also, if you complain about this kind of harassment, your antagonist may get fired, but you may find yourself out of a job, too, if you’re a future lawsuit risk for your employer. No one likes a complainer.

Several bosses back, we had one who was heavily into this sort of thing. Not saying there couldn’t be worthwhile training out there, but the several sessions we had were worthless.

My impression was that there were a group of speakers out there making coin off of providing training, and they would basically trot out their greeting card presentations on whatever topic was currently in vogue - whether diversity sensitivity or “who moved my cheese?”

And managers were in part assessed by whether or not they ordered such training. Wasn’t effective in changing anyone’s attitude, but gave the impression mgmt was trying.

Like most things, I’m OK with it as long as it is consistent and even-handed.
For one example, just to name one: Discourage people from making fun of African-American students on account of origin? Absolutely - such discriminating behavior is wrong. But don’t let African-American students look down on someone else because of their origin, either (African-Americans looking down on African Africans is a real thing.)

I have had to sit through sexual harassment training many times with several different companies. Didn’t work. I still don’t know how to do it.

I have had to sit through sensitivity training as well. I suppose they want to teach me what black people are really like despite the fact that I grew up in a town that is roughly half black. Maybe it is the Jews they want to tell me about even though I went to a heavily Jewish university or all about the gays that I used to hang out with. I still haven’t gotten any revelations about the secret communications that are supposedly stonewalling us. Silly me, up until then, I assumed that we were all cool.

That said, it isn’t a total waste. I take plenty of other types of useless training. It mainly serves as a break from doing any real work.

As long as my opinion as a white male is completely disregarded and shown contempt for merely existing, I’m all for it.

Believe me, if I’d ever had to sit through an offensively PC seminar on sensitivity, I’d be mocking it right now.

As it is, I’ve attended a handful of diversity training sessions. None was useful and all felt like a formality. But none raised my political hackles, and none browbeat me about my white privilege. Most were about general good manners.

Thing is, every office I’ve ever worked at HAS had a trash talker or two. It would have been so much easier for a manager to tell the offenders “Knock it off or you’re fired” than to make everyone waste a day on diversity training.

I’m one of those “chirpy” HR types Shodan mentions. My company doesn’t generally require diversity training though such courses are available for employees to take. If an employee has an issue we might recommend they take the course and their manager will usually require him or her to take it at that point. Our diversity training really boils down to don’t be a jerk, be mindful that your experiences aren’t universal, and be mindful of what you say.

Which is absolutely ridiculous and counterproductive. It’s going to be tough to promote a diverse workplace when you make some of the employees feel guilty or self-conscious about their background.

Very few I would imagine.

I wonder if from an HR perspective, maybe one purpose of diversity training is so that employees can’t claim that “I wasn’t warned” or “Nobody taught me about this,” when their job is in jeopardy due to making racial slurs or whatnot.

I think it is for corporations to cover their ass.

I sat through a gazillion sensitivity trainings at MSFT. I speak 1 Asian language fluently, a second at a basic level, lived in asia for 20+ years and am part of a bi-cultural bi-racial family. Most of the sensitivity stuff is pretty dull and obvious if you have any kinds of multi cultural multi ethnic multi country background. There are plenty of American’s that don’t though.

We had sexual harassment training. Actually, it was more harassment training overindexed on sexual harassment. It also included inappropriate behavior between managers and manages, age, race, etc. Which I found reasonably useful. Especially if one is moving to the US after 20+ years in countries that have a different “politically correct” standard. Good to know the broad parameters of what is acceptable and what crosses a line.

I sat through I don’t know how many female employee empowerment calls. My manager was a woman, my skip level was a woman, about half the team were women, it is a public fact that the salaries between male and female colleagues were very close to equal (depends on the year and usually less than 0.5% deviation), etc. I get that on average in corporate America that kind of parity is not the majority. But it always seemed kinda redundant to sit on a call every month given the above situation.

that’s brilliant!


I had to go to “Unlearning Racism” once. Biggest problem was a white woman who was a lesbian (and made a point of telling us so, more than once), who sucked up really hard to the trainer by putting everyone else down, and acting like she was the only person there who didn’t think the confederacy was a great idea, and kept interrupting people to say “So what I hear you saying…” followed by a totally racist false take on whatever thought they had not been allowed to complete.

I don’t usually want to hit people, but the urge was strong with this one.

Eventually, everyone else just shut up, and it became a private conversation between her, and the presenter, for whom I had no respect, because she allowed this to happen.

Two frickin hours. Just to be allowed to work as a volunteer.

I’ve been to two training seminars. Both eight hours long. Both a massive waste of time, as agreed by everyone who took the seminars.

In some ways, it’s a waste of time, because if you don’t already agree with respecting diversity, these courses aren’t going to persuade you.

One of my old co-workers was a homophobe – believed that Joe could bring Jack as his “date” to the company picnic, but he should not be allowed to say he was his “husband.” “That’s forcing your opinion on me.”

But he sat through the required course, signed the confirmation, and was very careful where he spoke his opinion. That alone might have justified the training seminar.

Another vote for “corporate CYA bullshit.” I sat through a bazillion of them when I worked for a huge health insurance company with a color in its name. Ironically, it didn’t help much because people were already pretty stuck in their beliefs about each other’s race, gender, religion, and personality since the average employee length of tenure was 10+ years. It was not a flexible bunch, nor one that was open to change or different points of view.

After sitting though a lot of ridiculous “programs”, now when I hear “sensitivity training”, my brain goes to thisscene of Rescue Me.

Oh, and at the most integrated companies I’ve work for, people aren’t being given this bullshit soft-soap “class” stuff. They’re expected to work together like civilized human beings for the job. If someone behaves inappropriately, they are talked to privately, quickly, and directly. If the problem continues, they are gone. There is zero bullshit on this issue.