Why the Resistance to Diversity Training?


I had lunch with a colleague last week and during our appetizers we struck up a conversation about diversity training when he shared that such training typically makes people feel “badly” about themselves and was the reason why it is resisted by so many. Crickets! I had to pause for a second to consider my response, since training and teaching is a big part of what I do as a D&I consultant.

I will be the first to argue that diversity training can sometimes make participants feel uncomfortable, since we are asking employees to openly consider and learn difficult concepts such as sexism, racism or homophobia. We are taught at a very young age to remain silent about such issues. Diversity training often means that a group of “diverse” individuals, no pun intended, are asked to sit in the same room to learn about the law, for example, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and what constitutes violations to such laws in the workplace. Sometimes, these topics take us out of our comfort zones. But, the question that I have is, isn’t it the point of such training to actively dislodge us from our comfort zones?

I feel safe in saying that a huge part of my role as consultant in charge of leading organizations through training modules is to ask difficult questions and make each employee consider how they might respond in situations that may be new or foreign. At some point, I have to be comfortable with creating some level of discomfort because this is what I am being called to do. Yet, it is not my goal to personally marginalize any one participant in the process. Ultimately, the difficult knowledge that employees are exposed to is meant for their growth and professional development.

I want to hear from you. Are there other reasons why employees might resist diversity training?