Attitudes and workforce diversity


Managers are increasingly concerned with changing employee attitudes to reflect shifting perspectives on racial, gender, and other diversity issues. For example a comment to a coworker of the opposite sex 20 years ago might have been taken as a compliment. For instance, a male telling a female colleague that he thinks her shoes are sexy may become a career limiting episode today. Therefore organizations are investing in training to help reshape the attitudes of employees.

The majority of the US employers and a substantial proportion of medium-sized and smaller one sponsor some sort of diversity training. Some examples: Police officers in an advanced country receive 36 hours of diversity training each year. The Administration sponsors a mandatory eight-hour diversity seminar for employees of its Western region. A progressive and reputed restaurant puts all its managers through two days of intensive diversity training, with each day lasting seven to nine hours.

What do these diversity programs look like and how do they address attitude changes? They almost all include a self-evaluation phase. People are pressed to examine themselves and to confront ethnic and cultural stereotypes they might hold. Then participants typically take part in group discussions or panels with representatives from diverse groups. For instance, a Hmong man might describe his family’s life in Southeast Asia, and explain why they resettled in another country.

Additional activities designed to change attitudes include arranging for people to do volunteer work in community or social service centers in order to meet face to face with individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds and using exercise that let participants feel what it’s like to be different. When participants see a film in which people are segregated and stereotyped according to their eye color participants see what it is like to be judged by something over which they have no control. Following the terrorists attacks of September11, 2001, many organizations have added diversity exercises that focus on relationship with coworkers from Middle Eastern backgrounds and followers of the Islamic faith.