What is Sensitivity Training?

Allison Boelcke

Sensitivity training, also known as diversity training, is a type of program designed to help facilitate respect between groups that include people with different genders, religions, ages, races, or sexual orientations. The exact procedures can vary depending on the leader of the training, but typically involve lectures, discussions, and exercises to help participants understand and respect one another. The training can be implemented anywhere, but tends to be most common in workplaces and educational environments.

Sensitivity training encourages respect among employees of different races and genders.
Sensitivity training encourages respect among employees of different races and genders.

Discussion between participants is usually one of the main focuses of training. Sensitivity training often begins with an instructor asking participants to bring up any issues of concern that they face in the work or school environment. The instructor generally encourages participants to give their perspectives and work together as a team to come up with alternative ways to deal with conflicts and to better communicate with one another. Participants may also perform role-playing exercises, in which the instructor comes up with various conflict scenarios and has them act out the most effective ways to handle various situations with different types of people without tension.

Incidents of sexual harassment may be avoided when employees participate in sensitivity training.
Incidents of sexual harassment may be avoided when employees participate in sensitivity training.

One of the main purposes of sensitivity training is to help people who come from different backgrounds communicate more effectively in order to help with teamwork and prevent misunderstandings. The program can guide participants to the realization of how their actions can potentially be misconstrued by people who have different beliefs or backgrounds. For example, a person may not realize his or her words or actions may be extremely offensive to a person of a different religion or gender, which can affect the ability for the two people to talk and work comfortably together.

Sexism can undercut a woman in a position of authority.
Sexism can undercut a woman in a position of authority.

Sensitivity training can also be implemented as a means to teach tolerance and prevent animosity if people in a professional environment have completely opposing lifestyles or beliefs. An instructor can provide information on how someone can handle the other person professionally and prevent personal beliefs from mistreating or causing arguments. Employers may have their employees engage in the training to help them professionally deal with customers and to prevent any legal actions due to employee behavior that comes across as intolerant or offensive.

If a person is accused of discrimination, he or she may engage in sensitivity training as a means of reform or punishment. One of the most common circumstances in which the training tends to be implemented is as a means to prevent sexual harassment. Both men and women may learn what constitutes as harassment and how to avoid it in the future.

Sensitivity training may address working with fellow employees who have special needs.
Sensitivity training may address working with fellow employees who have special needs.

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Discussion Comments

anon1002932

Do unto others. Treat people with the respect you want from them.

anon1002905

You can't function as a team without respect for one another.

anon1002467

It's important to respect the beliefs of others even though they are different from your own.

anon1002447

The workforce is becoming more diverse. We need to be respectful to be productive.

anon1002393

Respect each others' beliefs and feelings.

GoHabsGo

All of this seems super redundant. I am here as punishment. But none of this makes sense to me because it is only I who have to take this course. Apparently, the other party does not need to be sensitive to my communication style, beliefs, etc. Which is probably why most people think that sensitivity training is teaching people how to be "politically correct". All I did was post our policy regarding harassment and explain to someone how their situation did not violate the policy. Yet I am here, because I was the messenger of news that they did not like, or want to hear.

yankees1

Simply put, people just need to respect one another.

anon1000191

I guess the way I see it, sensitivity training isn't about changing my beliefs; it's about respecting other people's beliefs too. That way, we can avoid mistakes when interacting with others.

anon999959

I think this is great because the workplace is so diverse that we all need to be more aware of what we say and do.

anon998564

The difficulty in coming to grips with behavioral differences in ones overall persona and expecting this to be easily transferred from private life to professional environments is not readily appreciated by the culture "gurus". As pointed out by Bhutan. One must take actions by a person as they are given in context of a given action.

anon996655

I think this is a good thing because of all the slurs that people make to each other and someone putting their hands on you that is inappropriate. Maybe, if everyone had to take this class before starting any job, then we might make a change in they way the world looks at each other.

anon981421

Why can I not be vocal towards Asians' work ethic with other races without being labeled a racist? As a generality and in my experience, they commit acts at school that are offensive. When I address these I am a racist. The Asians in professional school are undoubtedly brilliant and I suspect the language barrier is used against me for their gain. If I say anything they know the proper channels to call me a racist. Frustrating.

anon955221

But will it do any good if the "sensitivity training" is offensive to the person's religion?

SauteePan

I think that because our companies are becoming more diverse employee sensitivity training makes sense.

For example, although harassment training seems pretty obvious to most people, some people need the training to understand that they may be crossing a legal line that can cost the company a lot of money in legal fees.

It is important to understand disability sensitivity training because unless you are afflicted with a disability it is easy to forget what the person goes through day in and day out.

People afflicted with disabilities might require extra breaks in order to take medication. They also may not be able to stand for long periods of time.

The manager working with this individual has to be sensitive in order to ensure the company runs smoothly and the employee is happy and productive.

Bhutan

Hugging and kissing on the cheek is how you receive people in the Latin culture. However, in an Asian culture this form of touching and kissing might offend people that are Asian because it is just not done.

Cultural sensitivity training is important especially if you are in the field of sales and travel extensively.

Understanding the culture of a group of people will go a long way in bonding with them and eventually selling to them.

cupcake15

Diversity sensitivity training is a growing field in today’s society. Workplace sensitivity training might involve some cultural sensitivity training.

It will help the employees understand the difference between one culture and another which will limit the levels of complaints. For example, in the Latin American culture touching is very common, but other cultures might not like it.

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