• Stephen Fowler

Diversity and Inclusion Training | Buying In vs Training.

Updated: Jun 27, 2018

Holiday Party with cast of Invitation to the Dance

I have been looking at training videos offered to Human Resources departments on a number of topics. Those topics include: "Putting an End to Bullying", " Diversity and Inclusion Training" and others. I previewed them. They were a "soft berating" with stony faced actors.

Imagine what goes through the mind of a new associate watching such videos during orientation. That person is thinking about the first pay check, getting along with the boss, when will this video end, etc. If the idea is to fill a training square, meet compliance requirements or bore the new associate, these films are ideal. Embracing diversity and tolerance is better accomplished by bringing the associate to emotional agreement with the notions rather than compliance by demand.

"Everybody has limitations...everybody". Invitation to the Dance ( is a film that illustrates that while generating emotional engagement a new culture of tolerance can be created.

Sensitivity training in the workplace often uses specific demographic groups to illustrate ways to combat intolerance. One of the videos I watched featured an older man describing his dislike of slack young people. He said, tongue in cheek, that he "would try to tolerate them". We know that "young people" was a code for more politically charged examples of demographic intolerance.

The amazing thing is that we have to assume that demographics should have to play a role at all in illustrations of potential workplace prejudice. We find ourselves assuming that colleagues of different color, nationality or religion are the ones who challenge us to be tolerant. If you think of your own workplace, however, more often we have a problem with someone, not because of those factors, but because they are habitually late, do a shabby job or are on the phone too much. It is that scenario that often is neglected in inclusion training. Often these issues are the result of family trauma or being emotionally down. Ironically, the scenario that may account for the largest number of organizational challenges, is the least frequently addressed by corporate HR departments. I suspect that it is because issues like family emergencies, marital difficulties or even a bad night's sleep don't have many champions. That doesn't have to be the case. The progressive corporation can become the champion of those causes and generate amazing associate loyalty and workplace harmony. (see my example below)

The lovable cast in Invitation to the Dance are young and old, black and white, intellectually challenged and physically challenged. Yet, this one simple activity, ballet, brings them all together. They nurture each other and work hard to please their instructors. The takeaway: A company can demand tolerance. It can give lectures on the requirement of tolerance. It can threaten punishment or dismissal for non compliance but when everyone is considered part of a team, the leaders are kind and engaging themselves and coping skills are provided to everyone, miracles happen.

Here is an example of ways to improve corporate culture without training videos.

My airline employer wanted pilots to wear the pilot hat. I didn't want to. All the stern warnings from our chief pilot couldn't make me. But, when my father died, the kind assistance (tolerance) of my company  with returning his body to his home caused me to wear the hat.

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© 2018 by Invitation to the Dance Film