What is Workplace Sensitivity Training for Employees? - Definition & Overview

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  • 0:05 Workplace Sensitivity
  • 0:37 Sensitivity Training
  • 1:23 Jokes in the Workplace
  • 2:04 Demographic Issues
  • 2:43 Religious Issues
  • 3:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Orin Davis
Workplace sensitivity training is about ensuring that everyone in the workplace is respected and treated appropriately, regardless of who they are. It also involves learning to be respectful and consider the perspectives of others.

Workplace Insensitivity

Imagine going to dinner with your team while traveling for business, and one of your coworkers starts heckling a religious colleague that he or should totally try a pork chop tonight, and that no one will tell. The heckler starts chuckling at the religious colleague's blush, and then lets the matter drop. While that may seem like good fun to some, that religious colleague did not have such a good night. Neither will the heckler when he or she returns to the office to discover that the human resources department has called for a meeting and some mandatory sensitivity training.

Sensitivity Training

The underlying idea behind sensitivity training is developing respect for each person as an equal and as a human being. Just as we have wants and needs, so do the others around us. And just as we want people to show respect to our feelings and ways of living, so too must we show respect to others. Sensitivity training teaches people to engage in perspective-taking so that it is easier for them to appreciate another point of view and come to a mutual understanding. Sensitivity training also involves developing an eye towards what is more and less likely to be offensive, and likewise developing the ability to backpedal and apologize sincerely if feelings are hurt. Consider how sensitivity training can help each of the following situations.

Jokes in the Workplace

While at first blush it may seem like it should be easy to be respectful to a coworker, it can turn out to be very difficult to ascertain what is and is not appropriate. For example, no one likes a coworker who is 100% business, and affable colleagues occasionally crack jokes, swap stories, and the like. But, where does one draw the line to make sure that no one is offended? Some may suggest that only overly-sensitive people get offended. However, this could not be further from the truth. Just because one person finds the joke amusing does not mean that everyone finds the joke amusing. Sensitivity training can help people acquire sound judgment regarding which kinds of jokes are appropriate at which times.

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