Sensitivity Training!!! What next?


This weekend I finally ventured out to the Ramadan tents which is an institution in itself when you live in the UAE during Ramadan. (Vouching for the manakish at the Address Hotel tent in Dubai Marina & the fruit juices at Royal Mirage). A number of my university mates hung out with me. Some are incredible HR specialists (I guess that’s why they earn twice what I do despite being a lot younger than me). Anyway….amongst the shisha pipes and with me trying hard to negotiate my way around the smoke in a bid to avoid it, we got around to talking about Ramadan, recession and what’s happening in our lives.

Soon we got to talking about work and my HR friends were mentioning how these days they put candidates through several rounds of “sensitivity training” to avoid internal personality conflicts in organisations. At first it sounded like a fluffy exercise but when you really think about it, I wish most organisations would use this not just with new staff but existing ones. The exercise teaches that human beings are all different creatures and not all are inherently malicious, conniving creatures and that most of our ideas and actions are well-intentioned.

At work, if someone is spiteful, there is nothing to say they are not driven by their personal emotions and perhaps you should show concern, compassion, and curiosity to know more. One must give the benefit of the doubt as there must be a reason why a manager would put down a staff in front of his colleagues or a reason why a CEO turns into a nasty piece of work everytime he is with a girlfriend – either she brings out the worst in him or his idea of impressing her is emailing or calling staff and being rude to them to show his authority. Or why a staff would walk out of the meeting and the reasons why a superior, instead of having a private talk with a staff about his performance decides to humiliate him in front of his team. One never really knows ones motives which is why I guess this whole idea of ‘sensitivity training’ has come about – to make people more sensitive and understanding.

I don’t think people need to relate to each other with Mother Teresa-level compassion but assess the actions of management, colleagues from multiple perspectives before feeling hurt. Personally I will never understand people who use facades to show superiority or be negative to mask insecurity. Afterall, isn’t the goal of any organisation to motivate staff, give them confidence and promote camaraderie in times of stress so everyone works that much harder to make things work.

I wonder how I’d do with this sensitivity training thingy – I always find the under-layers of goodness in others fueled by an earnest desire to keep them happy. Its not always a good thing  as someone said, believing the best about people only makes them show you their best and not their real self. Maybe its time to be neutral and not take things at face value. Plus realise that no one is perfect and people you often look up to can also be insensitive towards you. It needs to be all about balance! I’d love to know more about this ‘sensitivity training’ and if it really does work.

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