Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Insensitivity Training at Starbucks

Yesterday was Starbucks diversity training day. You know what happened when a pair of black men decided that they had a right to use the restroom in a Philadelphia Starbucks without having purchased anything. The manager called the police and the story turned into a national cause celebre.

Evidently, calling the police was an extreme response, though it was allowed under company policy. The manager’s action clouded over the other issue, perhaps not the most important one, but worth consideration. If a store policy limits restroom use to paying customers, you have two options, either you go elsewhere or you buy something. Most people have had the experience and have simply purchased a cup of coffee. It is not overly onerous. It applies equally to everyone. The men who refused to buy anything or to leave were asserting that they were not obliged to play by the same rules as anyone else.

As for the usefulness or uselessness of diversity training sessions, I would note that they are most useful for those who get paid to offer them. They are also useful for companies that wish to shield themselves from lawsuits. As for the larger issue, whether they produce enhanced sensitivity, the answer is, as most sentient individuals know, that they do not.

Patrice Lee Onwuka explained:

For decades corporations have employed diversity programs and anti-bias training as tools to increase diversity and prevent embarrassing events. The intention of diversifying staff is important and needed, but the programs have failed to deliver meaningful or lasting results.

Harvard Business Review analyzed three decades of data on diversity programs and interviews with management at over 800 corporations. The researchers found that training does not usually work because while it teaches participants how to answer questions about bias correctly, they forget those right answers within a day or two. The information is not internalized and so does not become transformational.

Most people who are involuntarily subjected to such thought reform sessions go through the motions and forget what they were told.

Why is this so? Onwuke responds:

This happens because people don’t respond well to compulsory courses, but rebelagainst being force-fed information. By contrast, voluntary training leads to the opposite response and delivers better results, such as increased numbers of minority groups in management. Anti-bias or diversity training also often uses negative messages such as “Discriminate, and the company will pay the price.” But people aren’t won over by fear.

Of course, if institute diversity training produces more minority managers you are also suggesting that those who advance into higher management did not earn their way. This fact might well make it more difficult for them to lead effectively.

And, Onwuka continues, focusing the mind on bias tends to produce more bias. It tells people to see their colleagues and coworkers in terms of racial or gender categories, not as contributing members of the team. Worse yet, since everyone is subjected to this forced training, those who have done nothing to deserve it feel like victims of discrimination themselves:

Such training has also led to the unintended consequences of activating biases about others. Participants have reported leaving training confused, angry, or feeling more animosity toward differences and other groups. When groups of people such as managers are targeted for added training, they resist the message because they feel singled out as culprits for something they may not have done.

Finally, there is the question of the Starbucks brand. And especially its association with leftist politics. If you feel that by buying coffee at Starbucks you are supporting a political cause, will that make you more or less likely to do so?


Sam L. said...

I don't drink coffee, so I never go to a Starbucks (or any other coffee-seller).

Ares Olympus said...

Onwuke: This happens because people don’t respond well to compulsory courses, but rebel against being force-fed information.

So the psychologically best approach would be to give employees a choice (1) Get paid to attend training (2) Get a day off for no pay. if it was a choice, I wonder which a majority would choose? Life really isn't bad getting paid to pay attention and think about things sometimes.

Anonymous said...

The NFL, Starbucks, Roseanne and somehow Valerie Jarrett, all in one yesterday? Seems to be something fishy going on. There was an MSNBC town hall last night, and Valerie Jarrett was a lead panelist, sitting next to Al Sharptom, blaming Trump for setting a tone. This forum was hosted by Chris Hayes and the offensive Joy Reid. What place does Valerie Jarrett have in a conversation about race? Why did Roseanne just happen to bring her up out of the blue? The town hall was taped at 4pm! Did it just miraculously come together the day after a national holiday? Roseanne’s political hallucinations are mercurial on any topic, so her tweet is hardly surprising, yet her target is. Why bring up Valerie Jarrett in a tweet the day after Memorial Day? I don’t put anything past Jarrett — she is as cunning as they come. My understanding is that she now lives with the Obamas. Very strange relationship, and too many coincidences here. There’s more to all this. This looks like one big race-based PR stunt. Why Valerie Jarrett, and why now?

Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

When I lived in Texas a local grocery store (Randall's) made a deal with Starbuck's to let them have space in their store, right at the entrance. It was a little disconcerting to walk in and see people studying their copy of the NY Times at a plastic table in a well lit place just in front of the bakery.
It used to be you could tell the difference between a Randall's and a HEB by the fact that the Randall's always had parking available upfront, now it seems that will return.