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Diversity Training at Target: It's Easy to Be Critical If You've Never Dealt With the Craziness...

Topic: Training for Managers

Reality: In order for training to be meaningful and <gasp!> actually help, training needs to be specific.  

From the No Good Deed Goes Unpunished Category: In today's 24/7 news world, if you make managerial training specific enough to help, some employees might be offended that you're being specific.  Public criticism will ensue.  It will be used against you in a court of law.  So there's that.

Moral of the Story: You have to be brave these days to do meaningful training.  Skin like a Rhino - also helpful.

Why this type of lead?  Target has managerial training/guides to deal with specific situations that came to light during a recent discrimination case.  As you might expect, it makes for an easy target (pun intended).  

More from the Huffington Post report:

"Target uses theoretical scenarios to teach its supervisors how to deal with, for example, workers who are scared of Muslims, or Latino employees who blame supervisor criticism on racism, and many other situations related to diversity and discrimination that may come up in the workplace, The Huffington Post has learned.

A 49-page internal document obtained by HuffPost entitled “Diversity Scripts for Stores” sheds light on how the company is supposed to deal with potentially inflammatory workplace issues as it faces a discrimination lawsuit filed by three former employees earlier this month.

The scripts present a long list of possible scenarios in which managers and employees discuss race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, disabilities and other topics. “The Diversity Scripts empower leaders to address difficult and real-life diversity situations,” the document says. “Some scenarios are overt, others are subtle, but all provide a model of how to initiate coaching and follow-up conversations.”

The problem that people have with the document is the stereotypes that are used as content.  More from the Post:

"Since each scenario laid out in the document is so specific, the scripts are probably based on real problems that Target has had to deal with in the past. Still, since many of the scripts traffic in certain clichés, the company may be “exacerbating some of these stereotypes rather than mitigating them,” Beard said.

“In real corporate life, you’re going to be surprised,” he said. “When these stereotypes don’t hold, that’s what will really throw managers a loop.”

Despite efforts to curb discriminatory behavior, another Target training document ran into just that problem."

The three former warehouse workers who are currently suing the retailer in California's Yolo County cited in their complaint a document distributed to warehouse managers that addressed Hispanic stereotypes. The document, called “Organization Effectiveness, Employee and Labor Relations Multi-Cultural Tips,” noted that not all Hispanics eat tacos and burritos, dance to salsa or wear sombreros.

Target acknowledged the existence of the document, and said it was only used at one warehouse without approval from the corporate office. The company apologized for its contents.

The "Diversity Scripts," on the other hand, are corporate-approved and are distributed to Target stores. 

Here's a real example from the current Target training, under the category of Diversity Scripts.  You can find others embedded in the article above. Check it out and let's debrief below:


As training guides go, I'm not sure I've seen anything better.  Lays out the scenario for skill practice, gives some hints and allows for live role play, both with what's featured and I can also see freestyle role play emulating from this scenario as well.  The structure is pretty damn solid.

In terms of content, I get the sensitivity to stereotypes.  But I think you have to talk about stereotypes to help managers broaden thinking in the workplace.

But it talks about Muslims!

Yeah, I know. Just like the unenlightened do in your workplace.  Stuff that real employees say.  In order to get managers prepped and fluid enough to deal with specifics, you've got to outline the specifics.  But of course, it's framed as a problem by the media.

Well done, Target.  Don't stop doing what you do.  Maybe challenge yourself on references to burritos and other inflammatory stuff, but strive to keep it meaningful.

After all, if you don't keep it real, managers won't learn a damn thing from it.  If managers laugh at those references and cause your company risk by referring to the training across their teams, the managers probably need to go.


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