What is Workplace Sensitivity Training for Employees? – Definition, Lesson & Quiz
Workplace sensitivity training is about ensuring that everyone in the workplace is respected and treated appropriately regardless of who they are, and involves learning to be respectful and consider the perspectives of others.
Introduction – Workplace Sensitivity Training
Imagine going to dinner with your team while traveling for business, and one of your coworkers starts heckling a religious colleague that (s)he should totally try a pork chop tonight, and that no one will tell. The heckler starts chuckling at the religious colleague’s blush, and then lets the matter drop. While that may seem like good fun to some, that religious colleague did not have such a good night. Neither will the heckler when (s)he returns to the office to discover that (s)he has a meeting with human resources and some mandatory sensitivity training.
The idea underlying sensitivity training is respecting each person as an equal and as a human being. Just as we have wants and needs, so do the others around us. Just as we want people to show respect to our feelings and ways of living, so too must we show respect to others. Sensitivity training teaches people to engage in perspective-taking so that it is easier for them to appreciate another point of view and come to a mutual understanding. Sensitivity training also involves developing an eye towards what is more and less likely to be offensive, and likewise developing the ability to backpedal and apologize sincerely if feelings are hurt. Consider how sensitivity training can help each of the following situations.
Issues Requiring Sensitivity in the Workplace
While at first blush it may seem like it should be easy to be respectful to a coworker, it can turn out to be very difficult to ascertain what is and is not appropriate. For example, no one likes a coworker who is 100% business, and affable colleagues occasionally crack jokes, swap stories, and the like. But, where does one draw the line to make sure that no one is offended? Some may suggest that only overly-sensitive people get offended, and this could not be further from the truth. Just because one person finds the joke amusing does not mean that everyone finds the joke amusing. Sensitivity training can help people acquire sound judgment regarding which kinds of jokes are appropriate at which times.
Demographics Is a Rocky Road
What about bringing up issues related to demographic issues, such as religious/ethnic differences? It certainly comes up now and again, but it is not always clear how to do so respectfully. For example, while some people prefer the term ‘African-American,’ there are others who find the term offensive and prefer ‘Black.’ Some people like discussing ethnic origins, but others consider it to be no one’s business. Sensitivity training can help people ascertain when it is comfortable for everyone to discuss demographics and when to table the conversation, and likewise how to be respectful in using descriptors that everyone finds appropriate.
Working with Different People
The team may need to work over the weekend, but there are multiple religious people on the team who do not work on their respective Sabbaths. How is the work going to be divided? What is the plan for finishing the work? It can be frustrating for non-Sabbath-observant people to work with those who do observe the Sabbath, and vice versa, but how can those frustrations be kept in check to maintain respect for all of the observances? Sensitivity training can help keep frustrations in check and orient people towards mutually beneficial and effective arrangements.
Despite how obvious much of sensitivity training may seem, working with many different types of people requires a large amount of patience, respect, and wisdom. Sensitivity training helps people to acquire a mindset of mutual respect and the requisite ability to take on other people’s perspectives.