Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Do I have to keep going to diversity seminars?

Dear Diversity Diva: Why do I have to keep going to diversity seminars at work? We have them every year and I want to know what’s up with that. Isn’t it my bosses that need to be hearing this stuff anyway? — Sick of Seminars

Dear Sick: You have to keep going to diversity seminars for the same reasons you still need to get an annual physical from a doctor even though you had one back when they put Winnie the Pooh Band-Aids on your boo-boos.
Diversity seminars and workshops often trigger eye-rolling and sighs of exasperation because people think they get along just fine with their co-workers and don’t need any extra help.
No doubt, some seminars are better than others. Some can be informative, fun and lively. Others can be simplistic, preachy or just downright boring.
But even the worst diversity session that your employer sends you to has some information or some insight into your co-workers that you need to know about.
If, for example, you see even one co-worker mouthing off about her sexist bosses, or you see your minority or disabled or older co-workers visibly upset when the issue of bias or discrimination comes up, then you are looking at the reason why you’re there.
And the fact that you didn’t cause or aren’t responsible for someone else’s issue doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you, your department or your company.
Employees who have to check some part of their identify at the workplace door probably think there are not enough good diversity workshops taking place.
A lot of distaste that many have for these training sessions stems from the defensiveness these sessions trigger among the people who assume that on some level they or the group they are a member of will be targeted as “the bad guy.”
But if you start being one of those employees who truly aims to learn just one thing every session, you’ll find that going to them seems less tedious. And you may even find it has some positive impact on your work environment.

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