Thursday, January 10, 2008

Are we a little too sensitive these days?

I spent a number of years leading diversity and anti-harassment trainings (back as far as the 1980's) and used to be an AA/EEO officer. As a woman and ethnic minority, I was a fearsome thing; let me tell you, though my views were much more moderate than people, on first glance, thought.

I'm now of the opinion that "sensitivity training" has left people, well, sensitive. Whites and men seem to have shifted from blatant, though mostly unintentional, bigotry to tiptoeing around on eggshells. It's this tendency to try to "look good" (See? I'm cool.) and not be accused of being a ___insert your poison here___ that, I think is getting in the way of being authentic and building solid workplace relationships. I’m not sure whether we have the stones to clash with each other over projects so we can find that “shining spark of innovation.” I’ve also seen instance after instance where men, fearing even the possibility of an accusation of harassment, refuse to meet with women over lunch or at closed door meetings. Losing our ability to share tacit knowledge assets (like the things a mentor pulls you aside to tell you...the kind of inside dope that helps you find resources, approach people more effectively and, hell, get things done), to my mind, is an untenable loss in the workplace.

What do you think (your experience and opinions are welcome here) and, better yet, what do you think will turn the tide here?

Thanks for weighing in on this question, which I've been thinking about for some time now. I’m looking forward to some juicy and productive discussion.

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