A "PSYCHO-LEGAL" Approach to Diversity Training

A new approach to diversity training encourages employees to change their behavior and ultimately helps to prevent discrimination suits from being filed. In order to change behavior and encourage employees to resolve conflicts through communication, diversity training should promote self-analysis rather than self-awareness alone.

Redefining prevention

Until now, prevention has been focused on defending a lawsuit, rather than actually preventing the lawsuit from being filed. To that end most preventive measures involved revising policies, documenting progressive discipline and education. Employees needed to be made aware that although differences - such as race, gender, religion, and etc.- existed; those differences could not be the basis or outlet for disrespect or friction in the workplace. While HR professionals have increased education efforts, however, the number of discrimination suits is still far too high. Employees are more aware of differences, yet they are still more likely to resort to litigation as a means to resolve conflicts at the workplace. Consequently, although the EEO message has been widely disseminated, it is clear that differences between employees in the workplace still cause incessant workplace tension and impact on productivity and morale.

Studies have shown that the reason most lawsuits are filed is more closely correlated with respect than with discriminatory factors. If an employee perceives that he or she was not treated with respect that is employee is more likely to file a claim.

Bridging the gap: combining legal and psychological expertise

Most diversity training focuses on increasing an employee's awareness about differences in the workplace related to gender, national origin, religion, disability, etc. The next step is to attempt to provide tools that go beyond educating employees about the importance of respecting the differences among different groups of people to encourage employees to think and act differently at work. Diversity training must show individuals how to actually decrease friction by becoming aware of how their own style of interacting with others affects performance, and how they can work better with their co-workers by recognizing their "personality style"1 and how it connects with the personality styles of their co-workers.

A revolutionary new training tool, Diversity: The Value of Mutual Respect, (www.hrtrain.com/portfolio/diversity-the-value-of-mutual-respect/) goes the next step; it broadens the participant's perspective and encourages the participant to change his or her behavior. Dr. Freeman, a behavioral analyst joined forces with the employment law firm: Lipman & Plesur, LLP (www.LipmanPlesur.com) and HRTrain, LLC to create a tool to foster better working relationships: Diversity: The Value of Mutual Respect. Diversity: The Value of Mutual Respect incorporates legal and psychological expertise with state of the art technology. This online course includes a unique philosophy --employees address the layers of workforce diversity (gender, generational, cultural, etc.) through the doorways of their individual personality styles. This understanding has sensitized many, introducing the potential for greater creativity and productivity.

The heart of the training tool is the personality assessment, which enables participants to determine their personality styles . Employees are provided with an assessment of their personality style and most importantly they are provided with positive suggestions as to how to get along better with others. Illustrations show the strengths and vulnerabilities associated with each style. Examples are provided to demonstrate that strengths overused can become weaknesses.

Conclusion

The traditional preventive approach is necessary to prevent losing suits. Additional measures need to be implemented to help prevent suits from being filed. Employers need to instill a culture of mutual respect. Psychological principles need to be deployed in the employment law/HR arsenal. An example of how this may be done may be found at www.hrtrain.com/portfolio/diversity-the-value-of-mutual-respect - Diversity: The Value of Mutual Respect.

1 The inventor of the polygraph, Dr. William Marston, found four (4) personality styles: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Correctness.

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