The Goal of Workplace Sensitivity Training
Sensitivity training in the workplace should not be just about diversity or teaching employees how to be less racist or sexist; it should be about fostering a healthy workplace environment of mutual respect, accountability, and integrity.

Ideally sensitivity training should help leaders and employees learn how to better deal with difficult people, resolve conflict in a constructive way, handle gossip, decrease back-channeling, and how to encourage open dialogue so more perspectives can be shared leading to better decision making.

The desired result? A positive and inclusive environment where people can thrive and perform at their peak.

A Positive, Inclusive Environment
We know that a positive workplace culture promotes better business. According to a Harvard Business School report, a positive culture can account for up to half of the differential in performance between organizations in the same business.

Our own organizational alignment research found that an aligned workplace culture accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performing companies in terms of revenue growth, profitability, employee engagement, customer loyalty, and leadership effectiveness.

But Does Workplace Sensitivity Training Make a Difference?
While some sensitivity training is required as the result of formal complaints or legal action, if company-wide sensitivity training is delivered as a job requirement or punishment, it can actually exacerbate the situation it was designed to solve. Instead of improving bad behavior in the workplace, it can create resentment in both the targets of discrimination and the perpetrators.

How to Do Workplace Sensitivity Training Right
Sensitivity training is best when it becomes part of ongoing management training programs to improve the overall work environment rather than brought in only when there is a problem or incident. Ideally, it should be proactive rather than reactive.

The keys to effective sensitivity training are clear expectations and accountability. And managers play a critical role in creating a team culture where employees understand behavioral standards and why they matter.

A Manager’s Role
Managers need to establish clear standards for employee conduct and be ready to apply consequences when boundaries are overstepped. Employees should clearly understand the behaviors that are unacceptable but also those that are encouraged and what, specifically, the goals and accountabilities are.

For managers, consider providing training and tools on different leadership styles, communication styles, and cultural differences. To avoid misunderstandings, teach your team members how people from different backgrounds communicate differently. But most of all, model the behaviors that promote open and respectful communication.

The Bottom Line
A manager’s job is to create the circumstances to consistently get the most out of their team in a way that fits with the organization’s core values, behaviors, and strategies. Set the example and be crystal clear about your desired workplace culture and what is expected on a day-to-day basis. Are you as a manager leading your team toward a more respectful work environment?

To learn more about how to create a more accepting and inclusive workforce, download How to Deal with 3 Behaviors that Create More Conflict

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