Opinion | What if diversity training is doing more harm than good? (2023)


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Opinion | What if diversity training is doing more harm than good? (1)
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Diversity training has been around for decades, long before the country's last racial reckoning. But after the killing of George Floyd, when companies were under pressure to demonstrate their commitment to racial justice, industry interest in diversity, equity and inclusion (D.E.I.)burst. The US market reached oneEstimated $3.4 billionin 2020.

DEI training was developed to help organizations be more welcoming to members of traditionally excluded groups. Advocates make bold promises: diversity workshops can promote better intergroup relationships, improve minority employee retention, close the recruitment gap, etc. The only problem? There is little evidence that many of these initiatives are working. And the specific type of diversity training that's all the rage right now: mandatory training that dominant groups for D.E.I. make responsible. Problems - can certainly have a net negative effect on the results managers tell them they care about.

Over the years, social scientists who have carefully reviewed the evidence base for diversity training have often come to discouraging conclusions. Although diversity training has existed in one form or another since at least the 1960s, few are rigorously evaluated and most appear to have had little or no long-term positive impact. The lack of evidence is "disappointing," wrote Princeton's Elizabeth Levy Paluck and her co-authors in a 2021Article of the Annual Magazine of Psychology,"Noting the frequency with which calls for diversity training follow widespread instances of discriminatory behavior."

The team of dr. Paluck found only two large experimental studies that attempted to assess the impact of diversity training in the past decade and they met basic quality standards. Other researchers were not impressed either. "We've been talking to employers about this research for more than a decade,"wroteSociologists Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev in 2018, "with the message that diversity training is probably the most expensive and least effective diversity program out there." (To be fair, not all of these criticisms so clearly apply to voluntary diversity training.)

If diversity training is not having an impact, it would mean that perhaps billions of dollars a year in the United States are wasted on these efforts. But there's a darker possibility: some diversity initiatives could be D.E.I. actually make it worse. climate of the organizations that pay them.

This is partly because any psychological intervention can do more harm than good. Psychologist Scott Lilienfeld made this point in ainfluential article from 2007in which he argued that certain interventions, including those aimed at addressing youth drug use, juvenile delinquency and PTSD, most likely fall into this category. In the case of D.E.I. warn dr Dobby and Dr. Kalev warns that diversity training that is mandatory or threatens the sense of belonging of dominant groups or makes them feel guilty can lead to thisnegative setbackor reinforce prejudice.

Many popular contemporaries D.E.I. Approaches meet these criteria. They often seem geared more towards creating a revolutionary new understanding of race relations than solving the specific problems of organizations. And they often blame white people or their culture for harming people of color. For example the activist Tema Okunis workingHe cites concepts such as objectivity and the cult of the written word as characteristics of the "culture of white supremacy". Robin DiAngelo's "White Frailty" workouts are designed to make white participants uncomfortable. And microaggression training is based on a body of academic literature that saysno quality teststhat common phrases like “America is a melting pot” are harmful to the mental health of people of color. Much of this training goes against the views of the majority of Americans, of all races, on race and equality. And they're generating exactly the kind of backlash that research is predicting.

Just ask the staff at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture who had toissue an apologyafter publishing an okunesque graphic labeling rational thinking, hard work, and "emphasis on scientific method" as attributes of "white culture."

Then there are the lawsuits. WhatThis was reported by the New York Times magazine.In 2020, at least half a dozen New York City Department of Education employees filed lawsuits or won settlements in cases involving D.E.I. Racial-affinity group training, a popular intervention that temporarily segregates participants by race so they can talk about race, may have proved even more problematic. They've generated complaints in places likeJacksonville, Florida, where a principal was temporarily reassigned after trying to separate white students from black students to discuss cultural issues, and Wellesley, Massachusetts, where the creation of racial affinity groups for students sparked aDemand already resolvedfrom a conservative group.

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Not all complaints are valid, not all lawsuits are justified, and backlash to talks about racial justice is nothing new. Martin Luther King Jr.had a negative rating of 63 percentbefore his assassination. If joint diversity training has definitely made institutions measurably more equitable or inclusive, then one could argue that it's worth it, despite backlash and rising legal fees. But there is little evidence that they do.

So what works? Robert Livingston, a Harvard Kennedy School professor who works as a bias researcher and diversity consultant, had a simple suggestion: "Focus on actions and behaviors, not heart and mind."

dr Livingston suggested that it is more important to understand an organization's specific issues with D.E.I. to diagnose accurately. and develop concrete solution strategies rather than trying to change the attitude of individual employees. and I.E.I. The challenges vary greatly from organization to organization: Sometimes it's about the relationship between white and non-white employees, sometimes it's about recruiting or retaining employees, and sometimes it's about the unequal treatment of customers. (Think of black patients who were prescribed fewer pain medications than white patients.)

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The legwork that goes into understanding and solving these problems isn't exactly glamorous. If you want more black and latino people to fill executive positions at your large company, you may need to collect data on what percentage of applicants come from these groups and survey current black and latino managers to see if there are any weather issues that are contributing could problem . and possibly increase recruitment efforts at, for example, business schools with high percentages of Black and Hispanic graduates. Even solving this problem, which is quite common, can take hundreds of hours of work.

The truth is, as Dr. Livingston emphasized that not all organizations are up to this type of task. Ticking a box and moving on is perhaps the most appealing option. "Some organizations want to do showcases," he said. "And if so, then take a white brittle workshop with you and know that you have achieved your goal."

The history of diversity training is, in a sense, a history of fads. Perhaps, over time, the current crop will wither, new ones will sprout, stunted by the same lack of evidence, and in ten years someone else will write a version of this article. But it's also possible that organizations are tired of spending time and money on training where the benefits are mostly theoretical and the potential downsides include disgruntled employees, public embarrassment, and even lawsuits. You can find that a real commitment to D.E.I. it does not lend itself to simple solutions.

Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) is the author of "The Quick Fix: Why Trendy Psychology Can't Cure Our Social Illnesses' and co-host of the podcast 'Blocked and Reported'. Write the Singal-Minded Newsletter.

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Do you think diversity training is effective? ›

Diversity training has been shown to help staff engage better with diversity initiatives. Research by American psychologists showed that staff who received the training reported they were significantly more able to successfully cope with initiatives.

Can diversity training backfire? ›

Your organization's diversity training, despite all the good intentions in the world, may ultimately backfire, causing more damage than it solves.

What are some limitations of diversity training? ›

  • Diversity training might not actually have as much of a positive impact as we think. ...
  • It is hard to measure the impact of training. ...
  • The focus is narrow and perhaps does not tackle wider scale diversity issues within organizations. ...
  • Diversity training may not be the most economic method for increasing diversity.
Aug 4, 2022

Why diversity programs don t work? ›

Most diversity programming doesn't stand a chance of achieving its goals. Most employers would agree that it doesn't make sense to knowingly and consciously allocate resources to training that is, at best, limited in its effectiveness and, at worst, divides employees and makes them resentful of one another.

What is the most important purpose of diversity training? ›

A diversity training program aims to boost participants' awareness about different types of diversity, appreciating differences among co-workers, and provide knowledge and strategies to enhance employees' interpersonal and communication skills across diversity to help build a positive work environment.

What are the benefits of diversity training? ›

Expected Benefits of Diversity Training
  • Eliminate Discrimination and Harassment. ...
  • Safer Workplace for All Employees. ...
  • Avoid Lengthy Legal Issues. ...
  • Improved Innovation and Company Growth. ...
  • Increased Productivity. ...
  • Decreased Conflict.

Does diversity Hurt group performance? ›

Diversity Leads to Better Team Performance by:

It can improve team performance by ensuring that each team has a diverse set of talents. When an organization values inclusivity, it can also help strengthen the relationship with employees and thus lead to improved individual performance as well.

Why diversity and inclusion fails? ›

A D&I program cannot succeed in the absence of adequate representation of diverse groups of people. One key hindrance is the perception of diversity as anything other than meaning the inclusion of people of distinct ages, genders, ethnicities, social classes, income levels, and different cultural backgrounds.

Can you refuse diversity training? ›

Whether you opt out of diversity training depends on your company and its requirements, but I strongly encourage your attendance. I'm of the firm belief that change requires us to learn from one another and grow in order to create progress in our workplaces and in the world around us.

What are the negative effects of diversity? ›

Diversity can have a negative effect on a company. Diversity and differences within a team can lead to poor communication and reduced teamwork, conflict, exclusion and people leaving the organization.

What are the disadvantages of diversity in the workplace? ›

  • Colleagues from some cultures may be less likely to let their voices be heard.
  • Integration across multicultural teams can be difficult in the face of prejudice or negative cultural stereotypes.
  • Professional communication can be misinterpreted or difficult to understand across languages and cultures.

What is the disadvantage of diversity? ›

Among the most noticeable disadvantages of cultural diversity include language barriers, social tension, and civic disengagement. It should be noted that these are not reasons to avoid diversity, but rather, factors to keep in mind as society heads toward a more diverse future.

How do diversity efforts fail? ›

No matter how diverse your team is, your DEI efforts will fail if you don't provide equitable programs and inclusive environments. Companies need to rethink their approach and reprioritize their efforts to put equity and inclusion before diversity, building EID efforts rather than DEI.

What are the disadvantages of diversity management? ›

List of the Cons of Diversity in the Workplace
  • Diversity still makes it challenging for some cultures to be heard. ...
  • It doesn't eliminate the cultural stereotypes that people have. ...
  • There can be communication issues found in diverse teams. ...
  • Diversity in the workplace requires navigation of visa requirements.
Jan 23, 2019

Why is diversity important 3 reasons? ›

Diversity brings in new ideas and experiences, and people can learn from each other. Bringing in different ideas and perspectives leads to better problem-solving. Working in diverse teams opens dialogue and promotes creativity. The value of diversity is true for our culture, too.

What is diversity training in your own words? ›

Diversity training is an initiative taken by most companies to create awareness of diversity issues and bring about cohesiveness in teams. It is primarily a part of the leadership development programs to promote togetherness and level playing field for all.…. bring about cohesiveness in teams.

What is the importance of diversity? ›

1) Diversity drives creativity and innovation

Every culture, every nationality, every single person sees the world in a different way. Similarly, every culture, nationality, and person has different knowledge, perspectives, and points of view. When all of these different views are shared together, miracles can happen.

How can we improve diversity training? ›

How to make your diversity training successful
  1. Develop an understanding of diversity and inclusion training. ...
  2. Extend and maintain diversity and inclusion training over time. ...
  3. Tailor diversity and inclusion training to your company. ...
  4. Plan an integrated approach. ...
  5. Include workers of all levels. ...
  6. Hire an expert.

What is the importance and benefits of diversity in the workplace? ›

A diverse workplace is an important asset, since it acknowledges the individual strengths of each employee and the potential they bring. Valuing the differences of others is what ultimately brings us all together and can be the secret to a successful, thriving workplace and a fair work culture.

Does diversity cause conflict? ›

Increased diversity can lead to conflict and misunderstandings. A well-trained manager will be able to resolve these conflicts should they arise.

What are the disadvantages of unity in diversity? ›

Disadvantages of Unity in Diversity
  • This can lead to various social tensions among states and people of different linguistic backgrounds.
  • In many parts of the country, it breeds corruption and illiteracy.

Does diversity increase group conflict? ›

In terms of conflicts, research suggests that diversity increases conflicts which in return may be beneficial or not, depending on the type of conflict that is activated. Three types of conflicts may occur in a diverse group: (1) task conflict, (2) socio-emotional conflict or (3) value conflict.

Why is lack of diversity a weakness? ›

A lack of diversity in a job can unintentionally create a hostile environment and contribute to higher turnover. When employees feel like they don't fit in, they're not likely to stick around.

How does diversity become a problem at times? ›

Diversity in India is main source of prejudice and discrimination. Lack of tolerance to differences lead to conflict in society and thus diversity is not always celebrated. When our opinions about certain people are always negative, these become prejudices.

Is diversity management an ethical issue? ›

Diversity in the workplace isn't directly an ethical issue. It refers to the different types of people from different backgrounds who make up the staff in the office. As the world economy has opened up opportunities for education and jobs, companies find talent in a lot of unique and different areas.

Can you be forced to do diversity training? ›

It is incredibly common for companies to require their employees to attend diversity training courses these days, and there are several benefits to implementing policies and procedures that create a culture where equality is valued.

Can you be forced to take diversity training? ›

The new law does not allow corporations to offer training that encourages participants to be “woke at work” or that tells workers that “America has a history of racism.” The bill makes it unlawful for employers to subject employees to training and workplace activities that teach those concepts.

What are five diversity issues that affect? ›

We've highlighted 5 critical diversity issues in the workplace, to help businesses and organisations identify key areas for development.
  • Communication (or lack of) ...
  • Harassment. ...
  • Unconscious Bias. ...
  • Generation Gaps. ...
  • Diversity without inclusion.

What are the 5 diversity issues? ›

Age, race, ethnicity, cultural background, gender, sexual orientation, and religion, immediately come to mind, but have you considered educational background, managerial experience, neurodiversity and even personality traits.

What are the disadvantages and advantages of low diversity and high diversity? ›

Ecosystem with low diversity is less productive. High diversity for any species can be defined as the presence of a huge variety of successful individuals in abundance such that they create a stable and healthy ecosystem which is capable enough to fight against natural hurdles and thus keep the name of species.

What is an example of diversity issues? ›

Workplace discrimination is one of the most common diversity issues experienced in an organization. Discrimination against a certain group or individual can occur due to various reasons, such as their race, sex, country of origin, marital status, disability, etc.

How effective diversity training may impact on the success of the business? ›

Diversity training in the workplace assures that diversity, equity, and inclusion is understood throughout the entire organization. It promotes a culture of understanding, brings awareness to biases, gives a basis of measurement for change, and lays a long-term foundation for true action.

Why effectiveness of training is important? ›

Training helps learners gain new knowledge and skill. The most effective training also helps learners apply this information to their workplace, a process known as transfer of learning or simply learning transfer. Training effectiveness refers to how well your training supports learning and learning transfer.

How do you create an effective diversity training? ›

How to make your diversity training successful
  1. Develop an understanding of diversity and inclusion training. ...
  2. Extend and maintain diversity and inclusion training over time. ...
  3. Tailor diversity and inclusion training to your company. ...
  4. Plan an integrated approach. ...
  5. Include workers of all levels. ...
  6. Hire an expert.


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