Can diversity training really solve the problem?

On Tuesday, Starbucks stores will close for an afternoon.The coffee chain faced swift backlash after a ...

Posted: May 26, 2018 8:04 AM
Updated: May 26, 2018 8:04 AM

On Tuesday, Starbucks stores will close for an afternoon.

The coffee chain faced swift backlash after a Philadelphia store manager called police on two black customers.

Now more than 175,000 Starbucks employees will undergo a company-wide training, which Starbucks says will "address implicit bias, promote conscious inclusion, prevent discrimination and ensure everyone inside a Starbucks store feels safe and welcome."

Related: How Starbucks will train its staff to be less biased

These kinds of trainings happen in workplaces across the country, and they go by many names: implicit bias training, diversity training and prejudice reduction training. The point is to coach employees through interactions with people that are different than them, to lift the veil on the hidden biases that cause so many of us to react poorly.

Depending on how companies conduct them, experts say some people can have a negative response, even rejecting the teachings they're supposed to internalize.

But training that is done well, both uncovering bias and emphasizing its ubiquity, can empower people to make a change in behavior.

The power of positivity

Diversity training can backfire when it relies too heavily on negative language, legalese or scare tactics that threaten employees who may act on their biases. This approach can infuriate employees, or, according to research from John Dovidio, professor of psychology at Yale University, some white employees may avoid all interactions with minorities.

Related: When workplace trainings can backfire

Instead, trainers should empower employees to feel like they have the potential to be good guys, not just villains.

"I can use my conscious ways of thinking to overcome implicit bias, if I know I have implicit bias and how it works," Dovidio says. "But here's the kicker: if you try to suppress or you try to deny it, the problem is that doesn't work. It just sort of aggravates and activates those implicit biases. You're just trying to hold them down, which takes effort."

The importance of tools

A change in behavior takes time and practice.

Good training gives employees hard tactics to use in uncomfortable situations, when their latent prejudice would otherwise kick in to prompt an outsized, bias-prompted response. Even something as simple as a script to follow can help immensely, says Michelle Mielly, professor at Grenoble Ecole de Management in France.

Mielly says good training should "enable people to have a few similar approaches, to get through situations by having something already written down, and to have coworkers also be there, to chime in if the other person is lost."

So the next time a worker encounters a situation that makes them uncomfortable, they can refer back to one of the practice conversations they rehearsed in training. Rather than, say, calling the police.

Starbucks should also be teaching employees how to rely on one another through this process, Dovidio says.

"I have the best of intentions, but having good intentions doesn't guarantee that I'm going to behave in an unbiased way," he says. "So I need tools for myself, but I need other people to support me and help me and intervene when those implicit biases pop out and I'm not aware of it."

Beyond the training day

Starbucks says it will incorporate the May 29 training into its on-boarding process for all new employees.

In coaching people through the biases many share, training also helps employees see working through their bias as an ongoing process, not a finite one.

And after all the scripts and learning and team-building is done, training can't promise that one afternoon session will eradicate bias entirely, Dovidio says.

That's a job much too big for a single person - or even a global coffee chain - to undertake.

"What you can do is get people to think of these interactions as learning opportunities: how you can learn from people who are different than you, how you can develop valuable skills and leadership," Dovidio says.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 941120

Reported Deaths: 15315
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1282511983
Lake633041097
Allen53609758
Hamilton43827447
St. Joseph41906590
Elkhart33545490
Vanderburgh30383448
Tippecanoe26820249
Johnson23609417
Hendricks22250341
Porter21737346
Clark17409229
Madison17366384
Vigo16108281
Monroe14466191
LaPorte14311239
Delaware14070221
Howard13865272
Kosciusko11418135
Hancock10841165
Warrick10674177
Bartholomew10542168
Floyd10430205
Wayne9959226
Grant9130204
Morgan8865160
Boone8389111
Dubois7710123
Dearborn762289
Henry7608130
Noble7413101
Marshall7362128
Cass7176117
Lawrence6957153
Shelby6584111
Jackson656785
Gibson6156107
Harrison603786
Huntington600195
Montgomery5805105
DeKalb574291
Knox5494104
Miami542488
Putnam536768
Clinton533665
Whitley524953
Steuben497268
Wabash483592
Jasper479160
Jefferson470092
Ripley454277
Adams444068
Daviess4169108
Scott405865
White391857
Clay390857
Greene388392
Decatur385296
Wells384983
Fayette374278
Posey359941
Jennings353156
Washington332047
LaGrange321375
Spencer317835
Fountain316555
Randolph312888
Sullivan307449
Owen283863
Starke280064
Fulton277553
Orange275859
Jay254837
Perry251652
Carroll243729
Franklin239338
Rush234130
Vermillion233250
Parke219820
Tipton209655
Pike207639
Blackford168334
Pulaski163551
Crawford146018
Newton144345
Benton142516
Brown135346
Martin128217
Switzerland125810
Warren114616
Union96911
Ohio79711
Unassigned0479

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1365800

Reported Deaths: 21596
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1522221560
Cuyahoga1344852327
Hamilton976051320
Montgomery670271141
Summit562091047
Lucas50900863
Butler47417655
Stark41580976
Lorain31567532
Warren30001331
Mahoning26963639
Clermont25628292
Lake24585417
Delaware22313145
Licking20487241
Fairfield20420221
Greene20309272
Trumbull19866509
Medina19796287
Clark17879328
Richland16314234
Portage16130229
Wood15681208
Allen14115256
Miami13786253
Muskingum12641152
Wayne11946238
Columbiana11708241
Tuscarawas10953269
Marion10725148
Pickaway10465129
Scioto10324127
Erie9747171
Ross9436176
Lawrence8755125
Hancock8458141
Ashtabula8317185
Geauga8173156
Belmont8140187
Jefferson7527172
Huron7423128
Union731851
Washington7183120
Athens697165
Sandusky6848134
Darke6756136
Knox6671122
Seneca6358137
Ashland5948113
Auglaize587188
Shelby5727101
Brown564171
Mercer557890
Defiance5483101
Madison543371
Crawford5425114
Highland541581
Fulton530683
Clinton525580
Logan512182
Preble4994110
Putnam4833106
Guernsey470364
Williams459282
Perry449852
Champaign445964
Ottawa436884
Jackson425362
Pike388843
Morrow383851
Fayette375853
Coshocton374766
Adams360675
Hardin359069
Gallia347356
Holmes3259108
Henry324668
Van Wert314670
Hocking301769
Wyandot280658
Carroll262652
Paulding242243
Meigs213942
Monroe189749
Noble169340
Morgan165829
Harrison157940
Vinton138118
Unassigned05
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 55°
Angola
Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 50°
Huntington
Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 55°
Decatur
Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 55°
Van Wert
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 52°
Rain chances continue for at least the first half of Thursday before gradually tapering off.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events