Discrimination, Harassment, and the Failure of Diversity Training: What to Do Now

Discrimination, Harassment, and the Failure of Diversity Training: What to Do Now

Discrimination, Harassment, and the Failure of Diversity Training: What to Do Now

Discrimination, Harassment, and the Failure of Diversity Training: What to Do Now


Billions of dollars have been spent on the wrong solution to the complex, sensitive and emotionally charged issue of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Companies originally invested in diversity training in order to meet Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity requirements, to reduce litigation costs, and to buy social peace. The result was often more social conflict--divisiveness, hostility, backlash, and an increase in litigation. Hemphill and Haines offer a new, simple and effective solution that includes the need to: establish, publish and enforce a zero-tolerance policy against discrimination and harassment; develop standards which define unacceptable professional workplace behaviors; and provide the relationship skills training necessary for all employees to meet the company's behavioral standards. For all business executives, leaders, managers, supervisors, human resource specialists, trainers, consultants, entrepreneurs, and employees.


We found it difficult to begin writing this book because for the last decade we both had been deeply entrenched in the diversity training movement and because of the many dedicated individuals we have met inside and outside of organizations who earnestly supported the diversity training premise. They sincerely believed that teaching workers to understand, appreciate, and value their unique differences would foster an environment in which each individual would be honored and respected, and that through this diversity training process discrimination and harassment would be diminished and eventually eliminated.

Literally, days were spent considering the personal and professional consequences of challenging the current premise. We finally decided that someone had to say it: Diversity training has failed to eliminate discrimination and harassment in the workplace. In fact, it has created even more divisiveness and disruption than existed before. A major course correction is needed.

Diversity training programs failed because of their focus on awareness, understanding and appreciating differences, rather than on teaching the basic skills needed to relate effectively to one another in the workplace. It is useful to recognize and acknowledge our unique differences, but it is far more essential to address effective and appropriate workplace behaviors. This conflict of solutions in the elimination of discrimination and harassment behaviors became a workplace dilemma.

Our solution to this dilemma acknowledges that organizations cannot effectively force changes in values or attitudes, but they can mandate appropriate workplace behaviors. We recommend that all organizations adopt and enforce a zero tolerance policy for discrimination and harassment practices, provide and publish a set of acceptable and unacceptable workplace behavior standards, and offer a training program in workplace relationship skills for all employees.

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