April 04, 2013, 6:13 PM —
Image credit: Flickr/D34n
Who could possibly be against diversity training? It holds out the promise of making the workplace -- and by extension our larger society -- more fair and accepting. Plus it was the topic of a hilarious early episode of The Office.
But there the mirth ends, because new research by psychologists at the University of Washington indicates that diversity training programs can lead people into believing that a workplace is fair, even in the face of evidence showing inequities in how people are hired, promoted and compensated.
Even worse, the "study also revealed that participants, all of whom were white, were less likely to take discrimination complaints seriously against companies who had diversity programs," according to the University of Washington.
While most workplace diversity programs usually aren't assessed for their effectiveness, companies facing legal action over alleged discrimination typically will point to their diversity program as prima facie evidence that they treat employees fairly and equally.
"Our fear is that companies may prematurely stop thinking about diversity among their workers because they've credentialed themselves with these programs," Cheryl Kaiser, lead author and a University of Washington associate professor of psychology, said in a statement. "Our findings suggest that diversity programs can be window dressing – even those that do very little to increase diversity may still be perceived as effective."
The study was published in the March issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.