Academic journal article College Student Journal

Workforce Diversity: Choices in Diversity Training Programs & Dealing with Resistance to Diversity

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Workforce Diversity: Choices in Diversity Training Programs & Dealing with Resistance to Diversity

Article excerpt

Currently, and over the past few years, diversity has become a favorite discussion topic in business, academia, and government. Moreover, diversity has become a buzzword in the media when focusing on the future of America. Wherever one looks, diversity is becoming more and more popular when describing the American workforce. According to Nobile (1997), diversity is one of the greatest concern and one of the top ten legal issues that face HR professionals today. The Hudson Institute's report Workforce 2000 made diversity a household word in companies across the United States, and enlightened organizations have became even more concerned with fairness in the workplace (Karp and Sutton, 1993). Diversity training programs were designed to better the relationship among people who work together. However, despite the best intentions, some diversity training programs produces the opposite effect. This paper will explain the necessary steps needed to develop more effective diversity training programs that reflects the values of the organization and the people who make it up. Effective training programs require choices between alternatives such as individual vs. group, behavior vs. attitude, and victim vs. survivor among others. These choices must be explained before imposing a set of values about how people should behave and react to other people.

Diversity, while always an important topic for HR Managers, is fast becoming one of the more critical ones and one that seems to draw ever increasing interest and controversy. The moral and legal imperatives that have come out of the 1964 and 1991 Civil Rights Acts are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. According to Nobile (1977) diversity is one of the greatest concerns and one of the top legal issues that face HR professionals today. The Hudson Institute's report "Workforce 2000" (1987) made diversity a household word in organizations across the country, and enlightened organizations have become even more concerned about fairness in the workplace (Karp & Sutton, 1993). Along with real concerns about what is right and what is wrong; what is legal and what is illegal; we now must consider what is pragmatic and what is naively idealistic, as well.

Although the concern with diversity in the workplace has been progressing for a reasonably long time, several precipitating events have brought the issue to national awareness with a concomitant demand that change be made quickly.

The Anita Hill affair of 1992, the Tailgate scandal of 1991, and the Citadel Academy issue of admitting female cadets in 1990'S are but three examples of diversity issues that made national headlines and with the increased awareness, demands for quick and decisive change about how people will be dealt with in a civilized society. The result of this has been an almost manic drive to increase training around diversity issues in most large corporations and government agencies. In looking to increase the effectiveness and acceptability of diversity training programs, two broad areas need to be considered. The first is choices in how programs are currently being developed and delivered, and the second is how resistance to the training is being handled.

Developing and Delivering the Programs

Most of the evolving training programs are usually dominated by one of two basic themes. The first deals with increasing managers' awareness of the legal and policy aspects of diversity. The second approach is focused on increasing the straight, white, American males' (SWAM's) sensitivity to the concerns of people in groups different from their own. This is frequently done by attempting to heighten the SWAMs' awareness of what it is like to be misunderstood, undervalued, and discriminated against, at work.

The major problem with many of the system wide programs is that they are unitary in nature, many with an almost dogmatic approach to the training. What is forgotten in the rush to solution is that there are choices to be made concerning the content and delivery of any diversity training program, just as there are in any type of training. …

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