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We have known for quite some time that diversity training is not only ineffective, but can even have negative effects on participants. Studies have revealed that this approach is harmful in today's workplace.
What is diversity training doing wrong?
First, let's address the problem that we're told diversity training solves. We, as in all human beings, have a categorization problem. When we interact with the world we unconsciously and automatically categorize the world we see. This is natural and necessary. We can't possibly mentally process everything we see in detail, so the human brain has developed an automatic method to handle the workload.
The problem is that we can't shut this automatic process off when we interact with people. Unfortunately, the categories (or social groups) our unconscious has built for people are often based on stereotypes perpetuated by television, movies, media, family, and peers, not on the individual we're categorizing. And, as we know, people are too complex to be described by categories.
At one time we thought diversity training would help resolve this. The training was designed to teach us even more about each category we associate people with. However, we've discovered that teaching more about these categories simply reinforces the use of them. This furthered use inclines us to dehumanize these groupings of people. It's much easier for us to believe a generalization about a category than it is to believe a generalization about a person.
The diversity training approach minimizes the individuality of the people that identify with each social group and focuses on teaching participants how to behave as though they aren't affected by these unconscious influences. However, we are all affected and it's perfectly natural. To teach people to hide their biases just teaches them to feel they have something to hide, which then inspires defensiveness when they're faced with the reality that we're all human. Instead, we should be teaching everyone how to deal with, overcome, and talk about their natural biases.
So why do we still have diversity training despite knowing for many years that it's harmful?
Because we haven't had a better option.
That's where Disruptive Communication comes in. Instead of attempting to teach employees everything we can about every social group we can think of, and attempting to provide them with a long list of things they can and cannot say, let's instead focus on teaching employees how to get to know one another as unique individuals.
It sounds ridiculously simple, and that's because it is.
What is Disruptive Communication?
Disruptive Communication is a vulnerable and open communication style integrated with powerful conflict management techniques.
We're conditioned to bring only a skeleton of ourselves to work every day, in an attempt to keep our "work life" separate from our "personal life". The truth is, work is part of our lives, and a pretty big part at that. It's not healthy for us to regularly leave ourselves behind while we play out some facade of being who others expect us to be.
We need to do better. We will never be able to realize our full potential if we don't feel safe to bring our whole selves with us everywhere we go.
With Disruptive Communication we can create a happier and healthier workplace, where each employee is tasked with the responsibility of organizational health, and each individual is equipped to quickly resolve conflicts before they escalate. By understanding the nature of the social mind and the ways in which our unconscious can influence us, we can begin to create a safe space for healthy and productive conversations that will empower us to be our whole selves.
Prioritize your organization's community, and you can unleash their full potential.
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