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The public library system in my locality has for the most part taken a balanced approach to handling the "inclusivity" movement (the quotation marks will be explained shortly). But I'm starting to notice them to be bending to the pressure from the frenzy (and unbalanced) perspective of the main stream media and they are scheduling staff for inclusivity and unconscious bias training. I do not want to be party to this disingenuous movement.

It's probably helpful for me to fill out the picture of the situation at my library in order to lay the groundwork for my question. Identity politics and its childishly simple categories of personal identity is derogatory to everyone. To conceive people according to its standardized framework and to then treat people based on that framework is demeaning to the people I serve as a library professional. I maintain that personal interactions be genuine and untarnished by politics (ironically libraries are also supposed to be politically neutral). I can say with confidence our library consistently serves the diverse population of our already highly diverse society. In short I believe that "inclusivity" training is itself demeaning and unethical.

On another note, if any change were needed there has been absolutely no description of what exactly would need fixing. Also, as a front line worker I personally have no access to the business processes or authority needed for making changes and therefore this shows the dis-ingenuity on the company's part. I am strongly opposed to being a pawn of upper management so that they can say they trained the company on popular social issues. Our library is in fact manned almost exclusively by White women and although there is absolutely nothing wrong with that so long as hiring is done by merit, if it were found to be corrupt, the only way to change that is through oversight of hiring practices, something which front line staff have, by fact, zero influence on. So this shows the hypocrisy of taking inclusivity training.

How might I approach opting out, avoiding, or somehow handling this situation professionally and smoothly?


So much came out of this question; the only practical way to respond to the (mostly) helpful comments is to insert them here.

Yes, I am making assumptions about how the training will proceed, however those assumptions are based on experience with similar trainings as well as knowledge about the culture of the library. A culture which clearly takes sides on political issues (as shown through countless community initiatives--which all single out certain groups at the expense of other groups, and even other so called "minority" groups) despite having a mandate not to take sides.

These "helpful" movements actually turn their back on the variety of positions held inside the so called "minority" groups and are thus mis-representing those very people (I disagree with the identity politics movement hence I put the tag terms identifying entire groups of people in quotation marks). This is proof for the fact that these "inclusivity" movements are infact themselves demeaning and discriminating.

I actually would welcome working with a more diverse group of people. What progressives call "minorities" I am actually partial too because I find those people often hold traditional values to heart which I also do. However, the means to establishing this is over-reach and disingenuous. If a staff member commits an act of discrimination then investigate and reprimand them. However, personal change of opinion and belief is to be left to the person and their personal life; it is not to be manufactured by an institution which itself is suspect.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    May 30 at 8:31

12 Answers 12

6

It seems like many people writing answers here have not been in an environment where leaders tried to impose questionable ideologically-driven initiatives in the name of inclusivity on their people. These actions can be perceived as a serious threat to personal values and even the foundations of our society, as much as any greenwashing campaign threatens the true beliefs of a climate protection activist.

Without going deeper into a sociopolitical discussion, the question is what can be done. My advice is to approach the subject on a 'human level'. That is, talk about the topic with any people you think may care about it. Share thoughts and opinions, find out what others think about it. You do not need to agree with each other; the process of discussing is itself the end. Also, remind yourself that even those you consider wrong in their ideas are probably driven by noble motives. See the human aspect in their actions as well.

The overall idea is to use enlightment, information, discussion as means to counteract fanatism and other harmful sociopolitical endeavours and see how far you can get with it. In the end, you will have to decide whether you can and want to be part of this cultural process or not. Seeing the human aspect to it may help. On the other hand, you would probably not go a Catholic mass and start speaking about why Islam is a much better religion. As you find your environment not aligning with your personal values anymore, you might have to consider leaving your current workplace for another one that does so.

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    "as much as any greenwashing campaign threatens the true beliefs of a climate protection activist" The vast majority of answers here would also apply in this scenario. I don't see any answer here that is argued solely on the specific content of the seminar.
    – Flater
    May 30 at 11:43
  • "3 "It seems like many people writing answers here have not been in an environment where leaders tried to impose questionable ideologically-driven initiatives in the name of inclusivity" ... uhm... you have been here 2 years ago, right?
    – nvoigt
    Jun 4 at 19:25
  • @nvoigt Not all users pay attention to the drama/politics of SE; I was here 2 years ago and didn't look into the meaning of "Reinstate Monica" until recently.
    – zmike
    Jul 10 at 0:10
60

I suggest that you don't opt out.

There are a lot of assumptions you have made about what the training will be about and the reason for it. It sounds like you don't have any problem with the concepts of being inclusive and trying to be aware of unconscious bias, but you think it isn't the big problem people make it out to be, and not something you need training in. But how do you know for sure unless you attend?

If you attend you can ask questions, give your contributions, and give feedback later on whether it was helpful or not. Maybe you will actually learn something new, maybe you won't, but having a closed mind about it won't benefit anyone.

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    I agree with attending. Also, a remark: "give your contributions, and give feedback later on whether it was helpful or not" — I would add: OP would need to pay extra attention to keep themselves composed. From the writing style of the question, I sense a notable amount of frustration, built-up tension. If OP doesn't watch themselves, their feedback may blow out in a way others could easily perceive as overly confrontational, and overloaded with emotion. Such an un-composed act could betray OP, and against their very goals, portray them as unprofessional.
    – Levente
    May 28 at 5:46
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    @DonFusili holy heck, touché. With that said, I can sympathize with OP's frustration, as I, personally, had already found myself in / on the receiving end of a rampage of misconduct, originating from a poorly implemented and poorly quality-controlled inclusion initiative, that not simply backfired, but led to the very prosecution of any non-progressive community members. So yeah, it's a complex issue. Yet I maintain a constructive attitude, because I know it's essential to ever achieving improvement. And it needs improvement, of that I'm sure. Tension in communities is real.
    – Levente
    May 28 at 9:44
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    @DonFusili on a second thought, even though OP might benefit from some training, it might be the one about inclusion, or it might be some other. In any case, consider the controversy of the situation: even if OP manages to opt out of participating, it could extremely likely stigmatize them as "the person who doesn't want to be inclusive". What would that lead to? People would want to keep a distance from them. Avoid them, isolate them. People "so keen" on inclusion would, as first action, fail to include OP from then on. For the reason of OP wanting to deal with this on their own terms.
    – Levente
    May 28 at 10:52
  • 6
    Either you are getting placed into that meeting room (whether you feel ready or not), or you face getting excluded. The "includers" will immediately become the strongest excluders. And the stakes are high: the cost amounts to no less than expulsion from the community. Losing the job. Losing the means to make a living. "Hello, I'm looking for a new job." "Why?" "Because of an inclusion training." "Oh, goodbye." See? Ultimate power to destroy a person. Sentencing to dying quickly in exile. All OP may need is a little more time; a little more help preparing them to enter. This needs refinement.
    – Levente
    May 28 at 11:03
  • 14
    "Maybe you will actually learn something new" -- considering the closed mind they're entering this process with, that seems like wishful thinking.
    – Barmar
    May 28 at 14:35
39

How might I approach opting out, avoiding, or somehow handling this situation professionally and smoothly?

The only professional way of handling this is taking part in the "education".

You said you don't know what they are trying to teach. Assuming you already know everything there is to know about a topic is quite unprofessional.

Also, what is the worst that can happen? You will sit in a dry warm room having to watch a boring video for an hour or two while being paid for it. I can assure you that there are worse jobs on this planet.

Best case is that it actually is an interesting course with a real life trainer that can teach you something. All while being paid for it. Again, it could be way worse.

You never know what you don't know. And you should be open for the fact that a homogeneous group of white women does not know everything there is to know about inclusivity.

I'll give you an example: when people began saying that they want to be called "people of color", not "colored people", I was mystified. I know that words can be offensive, with obvious examples like the N-word, but now it was even word order? I mean come on. It's the same words. When I was in school I had to learn a language that doesn't even have word order. You could take all the words in a sentence, sort them by their first letter and the result would be a grammatically correct sentence. So someone is offended by word order? That is some abstract politically correct cow manure. Right? Well, yes, until someone explained to me what the difference actually is. And once you know, it makes total sense. And I agree with it. But you can only understand people, if you take the chance to get taught. Even if you think you don't need to be taught. You never know what you don't know. So give it a try.

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    Regarding the word order, I am interested but you didn't say... what is the difference? It sounds akin to "yellow coloured bees" vs "bees coloured yellow" May 28 at 13:19
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    @DannyBeckett In a nutshell, "colored" has always been a label created to discriminate against people (whether it's Jim Crow or the Apartheid Regime), while PoC is a description freely chosen.
    – nvoigt
    May 28 at 15:47
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    @DannyBeckett, the phrase "person of color" emphasizes that they are a person first, and the fact that they are non-white is just an added descriptor. "Colored person" puts a qualifier on their personhood, as if to say they are almost like a (white) person, but not quite, because they are "colored". Whether intentional or not, historically, that is exactly the sentiment behind the phrase.
    – Seth R
    May 28 at 16:24
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    @Ertai87 Their boss decides what they work on. And the boss decided that this training is part of the job. If the OP wants to make their own rules about library work, they need to found one themselves. That's why it's a paid job, not a hobby. You don't always get to do what is fun.
    – nvoigt
    May 29 at 6:11
  • 3
    Well, sometimes labels and descriptions are necessary. How would you describe the person that just stole a book? It would be stupid to not mention their most obvious and unchangeable features, their skin color, sex, height and weight. Or age. That is not discrimination.
    – nvoigt
    May 29 at 9:13
10

How might I approach opting out, avoiding, or somehow handling this situation professionally and smoothly?

If your job is asking you to do something you don't want to do that isn't part of your contracted duties, then there is nothing unprofessional about just politely declining. Until you do so, you do not know if there are any consequences to declining. Once you have more information you can reassess the situation, but until then just politely decline.

My personal policy was just to ignore a request until pushed, then answer with a 'No thanks', then ignore again, eventually the course has already started and it's too late hopefully.

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    Although most of the site will disagree, I believe this is a perfectly fine answer to the question.
    – Jivan
    May 28 at 11:20
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    I'll note that declining diversity training is a professional risk. While this answer is not wrong, I don't recommend it.
    – Brian
    May 28 at 13:17
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    That's a big "if" though. The job description/contract/employee handbook probably includes "training as required to do the job", and doing the job probably includes knowing how to treat customers fairly and appropriately. There's still a gap between this particular training and the treatment of customers, but not a huge one. This approach might get you out of this round, but top of the list for the next round
    – Chris H
    May 28 at 13:20
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    @ChrisH or it just goes away, everything is a risk, thats why you need to assess things.
    – Kilisi
    May 28 at 13:29
  • 5
    I already have popcorn prepared for the inevitable "Disrespectful employee refuses mandatory training" question.
    – ojs
    May 28 at 21:38
9

[T]hey are scheduling staff for inclusivity and unconscious bias training

This phrase makes it sound like the training is intended for every employee and is mandatory. Unless you consider attending the training to be unethical in and of itself the most professional thing to do would be to attend the training.

I hope that the training is not demeaning like you are concerned it may be. Usually different perspectives are interesting, and do help motivate understanding and inclusion. You can always choose to not apply any suggested course of action.

That said, I have been put in an awkward situation before in a training in which the presenter (Luckily it was a peer, not a manager) attempted to get a pledge from the trainees to do something which I was not inclined to commit to do. It is best to be prepared for such a situation should you decide you will attend and know how you might politely respond.

But you also mention opting out and avoiding

How might I approach opting out, avoiding, or somehow handling this situation professionally and smoothly?

There are a few professional approaches that might work to help avoid the training.

One option would be to politely ask the person in charge of scheduling the training to not put you on the schedule. You could explain that you would rather be doing work during that time and that you feel you have a lot to do. You could even ask to be given the training material (slides, print outs, videos, etc) so that you could look it over at your leisure. Likely the scheduler will say this is not possible, but you never know.

Another option would be to voice your concerns with your supervisor. To keep it professional it is important to avoid being overly negative or wordy. You could explain that you are worried that the training may be unethical or demeaning. It might help if you could back this sentiment up with a simple experience or research. Remember to remain polite and courteous through this encounter/email.

There are also some less professional ways to try to avoid the training. These include scheduling important appointments during the training, just not showing up, taking leave when the training is scheduled, etc. I don't recommend these because they are likely to have a negative impact on your relationship with the company.

Of course it may boil down to the fact that, like it or not, the training is a required part of the job. At that point it is up to you to make a decision of what your priorities are.

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    The OP does consider this training unethical ... it's in their post.
    – Dave3of5
    May 28 at 10:52
  • This was also a very good answer. In some ways it was the only real answer to the question and one which I took many good points from. The system does not allow multiple answers hence not being able to select this one as well.
    – Ootagu
    May 29 at 17:34
9

I can say with confidence our library consistently serves the diverse population of our already highly diverse society. In short I believe that "inclusivity" training is itself demeaning and unethical.

At worst, the training is redundant and a waste of time/money for your company. Just because you are being trained on something you (allegedly) already do, does not make it unethical nor demeaning. It's the company making sure that you are properly trained on the subject.

That is not to say that the company explicitly claims that you (specifically) are doing things wrong at the moment, but from a management perspective it's really inefficient to go and personally review every single person and only give them the precise personal training based on their own specific shortcomings. I mean, just imagine the workload of having to go:

Hmm, Tom seems to be biased away from [marker1], but Angela is biased towards them. Bill, on the other hand, has no problem with [marker1] but really unfairly treats people who are [marker2]. Gina really just mistreats anyone who isn't [marker1+2+3].
So I guess, in order to not unethically demean our staff, we'll plan a [marker2] seminar on Monday, and making sure the speaker doesn't mention [marker1], because Bill will be present for this seminar and he might find it demeaning if he attends a seminar on [marker1]. We'll plan a seminar for [marker1] on Tuesday, which Bill then won't need to attend.

I used [marker] to not single out anyone in particular. Fill in with your race/gender/religious example of choice.

This is just 4 people and 3 markers, and it's already laughably complex to manage, and that's even assuming you have straightforward knowledge about every staff member's disposition towards every relevant marker, which you obviously don't.

It is MUCH MUCH MUCH easier for a company to simply decide:

Everyone will be attending the equality seminar on Monday, where we will discuss [markers].


On another note, if any change were needed there has been absolutely no description of what exactly would need fixing.

It makes no sense for you to already claim that there is no description of what needs fixing, when you won't even attend the seminar explaining the problem to begin with (and, presumably, also offering solutions to the explained problem).


How might I approach opting out, avoiding, or somehow handling this situation professionally and smoothly?

You are free to refuse attending the training. But your employer has the same freedom to refuse to employ you if you don't attend the training. Whether they allow you to not attend and remain employed is up to them.

You have to choose whether this is a hill you want to risk your employment dying on. We cannot make that choice for you. But I very much doubt that you opting out is not going to have consequences for you in the long term, so consider your move very carefully.


I am strongly opposed to being a pawn of upper management so that they can say they trained the company on popular social issues.

As opposed to what? Management not bothering to even train their staff on contemporary social issues?

I can't fully discredit the notion that your company lacks any practical follow-through after the "we paid for training" box is ticked, but that still isn't a reason to not attend the training. Even if we assume your company knowingly plans to take no real action, by not attending you are furthering the problem, as it gives them the ammunition to claim that not even the training would be necessary.

If you genuinely believe that more should be done, not less, you need to actually do the seminar and then petition the company for further action. But instead, you aren't even taking the first step on that road to action, which makes me wonder what you're ultimately trying to achieve here.


I maintain that personal interactions be genuine and untarnished by politics (ironically libraries are also supposed to be politically neutral).

The correctness of this statement very much hinges on whether the political topic is superfluously injected, or if its enforcing basic human decency.

It is quite frankly a sad state of affairs when basic courtesy has to be enshrined on a political level for people to treat each other with basic human decency, but that is not a reason in and of itself to dismiss this courtesy and the framework surrounding it "because it's political". You can't just go around and slapping a "that's political!" sticker on things and using that as a free pass to ignore it. I hope you can see how that is a laughably easy loophole to justify willfully ignoring things you don't like.

Courtesy and basic human decency should not be a matter of political opinion, regardless of whether a law protecting it exists or not.


I do not want to be party to this disingenuous movement.

You're hitting the nail on the head here that there is a huge rift between you and what you call "this disingenuous movement". But clearly, your company is on the other side of that rift.

Therefore, the only reasonable course for both you and the company to retain your respective freedoms might be found by you leaving the company.

Some people here have commented that your (let's call it spirited) rejection of this training seminar proves that you are the target audience for this seminar. I'll be honest here and say that, while I'm aware nothing is proven and this is all inference, I suspect your rejection indicates some veiled resentment.

But quite frankly, it doesn't matter. In either case, it doesn't matter who is wrong and who is right. What matters is that you and your company do not see eye to eye on this topic, to a degree where you flat out refuse to engage in your company's intended activities for its employees.
Regardless of who is wrong and who is right, the indication here is that the company is not (or no longer) a good fit for you.

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    Wish I could vote up more than once! Excellent answer in that it stresses awareness of these sensitive topics and that basic human decency should be shown irregardless of whether law exists and such should be apolitical.
    – Anthony
    May 28 at 17:08
  • 1
    I read most of this answer with ever growing sense of approval because I felt this could be the feedback OP needs, and the one that could help them reassess their position. I appreciate the volume and sophistication too: you spared no effort to deliver value. I think you presented an argument that OP could have trusted to enter and honestly consider. But with the conclusion, I feel, the progress you nurtured through everything before, got thrown away.
    – Levente
    May 29 at 4:22
  • “You are free to refuse attending the training. But your employer has the same freedom to refuse to employ you if you don't attend the training.” - I wouldn’t say this with any certainty, a company firing somebody for not attending this type of training, probably has never been challenged in a court of law.
    – Donald
    May 29 at 8:57
  • @Levente: The only thing I'm pointing out is an undertone of resentment, and OP's question very much reads like their issues with management/the company is based on more than just this particular seminar.
    – Flater
    May 29 at 12:31
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    @Levente, I disagree. If I had a friend who worked at the customer service counter of a Macys or a Home Depot, but who would refuse to attend customer service training because he doesn't morally agree with it or because he has years of retail experience already, I would totally respect his decision, but I would also tell him to look for a different type of company to work for. If your ego or your personality type doesn't match the (potentially diametrically opposed) corporate policy of your employer, you should really look for another job. And I mean this in the nicest way. Life is too short. May 29 at 16:14
8

There isn't a way for you to refuse to participate because right now, your attitude is quite arrogant IMHO, which is unhelpful in a professional workplace.

"In short I believe that "inclusivity" training is itself demeaning and unethical"

I disagree. The company is most likely trying to be proactive and make sure its employees are well informed of sensitive social issues. There does not have to be an clear existing problem with race or discrimination for such training to be implemented, so long as the training does not call out a specific social group , is not stereotyped in its viewpoint, and is factual.

Similar to the example given by @Nvoigt, presuming only your viewpoint is correct and showing unwillingness to keep an open mind, is unprofessional. You did not give examples of what you consider to be childishly simple characterizations" but recognize that what you consider childish and elementary, may not make such characterizations false. Recognition of personal hardship in individuals of certain social groups is not unprofessional IMHO and businesses have a valid interest to ensuring that all of its customers are comfortable.

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    “There isn't a way for you to refuse to participate” - There absolutely is one way. The author could simply not participate.
    – Donald
    May 29 at 8:53
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    Is it ok to mandate "training" on what you, as a boss, believe to be "unconscious bias" of females believing that males fail at child-rearing? Or would that fall under your category of Gender Prejudice? Wanting to stereotype yet refusing to be stereotyped is a contradiction that needs to be resolved before this conversation can take place with any honesty. Jun 5 at 16:37
  • @Adrian, I fail to follow. Were you attempting to comment on another post?
    – Anthony
    Jun 7 at 0:26
  • 1
    Forcing a particular race/gender to assume some personally unearned guilt based solely upon generality, what many supporters ironically and derogatorily describe as "stereotyping" is quite congruent with what I wrote. Not to mention racist - judging primarily by DNA. Jun 7 at 2:55
7

We all have biases on what people are, their motivations and their traits.

Sometimes it is wise to let those biases out and give them some fresh air, so one can reflect and examine them.

Go to the training - you might learn something about yourself and others.

2

I think the easiest solution is not to argue but to just not show up at the training. This might not be the most professional way to handle it (whatever that means exactly) but it will likely generate the least fuss and drama.

With a bit of luck your non-attendance will not be noted or have any consequences. If someone in authority does speak to you about it, have an excuse ready like "I forgot about it"/"Someone important work had to be finished".

However if your goal is to make a statement against "Political correctness gone haywire" in general and/or at your place of work specifically I think it's best to actually attend the meeting with your (counter-)arguments locked and loaded.

-2

We've got exactly the same in the Eastern Europe. The appeals and parades with long boring speeches about the superiority of the socialism and perpetual friendship with the CCCP. Of course they were obligatory, in workspace and in the school. Children learned by heart poems praising the greatness of the communism. The people in charge were fully engaged. You've got to grit your teeth and withstand that nonsense. And you're not the only one. After fall of the communism, those who were organizing such events forget every word they've said now and then.

Now we have somehow similar situation with the church. You must go to the church on some occasions. Because of the wedding of your friend. Or the funeral of your coworker. Or anything similar. And you have to hear for half an hour how pervert are people doing (what you actually do) and how very they deserve the hell.

People have mastered the ability with hearing with their both ears open. Everything that comes through one ear comes out through another in the same second. Learning this will help you much. Because you can't avoid the situations when you'll have to hear or do something utterly idiotic, only because of the political pressure or some stupid fashion.

Reading Dilbert or similar stuff could also help you to deal with the everyday absurd of the corporate life.

-3

Just say “no thanks”. You don’t have any other explanation to provide. This will be the most professional thing to do. No drama, no convolutions, just a “thanks, but I’m not interested”.

If they insist, or make it mandatory, stand your ground and find a new place to work.

Obviously this answer is going to get massively downvoted. For downvoters, ask yourself the question: what if the training was about something that would hurt your own ethics? Like “how to avoid serving black people without passing for a racist” (assuming it was legal)? Would you still be okay to say that “taking the training” would be the “most professional thing to do”?

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    Your example illustration contains strong trigger concepts / words. Whatever point you are trying to make, in a sensitive, emotionally loaded environment like this, I think, you shouldn't expect that those trigger concepts / words (combined with the confrontational stance) don't derail the thinking of many: automatically leading to / inviting disagreement and challenges, en masse. For this reason I believe, this is not the right vehicle to make a point in this thread...
    – Levente
    May 28 at 11:47
  • The chosen example is pretty much on the same level of triggerness as the OP’s topic is. Indication of that is the polarity of comments and responses.
    – Jivan
    May 28 at 11:53
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    I’ve read your other comments and appreciate them. I was simply giving another perspective, that people are free to take or not take.
    – Jivan
    May 28 at 12:13
  • 1
    If this answer was just the first paragraph, you'd have a +1 from me. But the advice for the OP to quit their job rather than go to a training session, and the meta-commentary, are each making a lot of bad assumptions.
    – Sneftel
    May 28 at 14:25
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    "I'm not attending a racism awareness seminar because I wouldn't theoretically attend a pro-racist seminar either" is the polar opposite of a sound argument. By that reasoning, no one should ever do anything unless they are literally willing to do anything.
    – Flater
    May 28 at 22:24
-13

Find a new job. A corporation that forces its employees to commit to unprofessional, heavily politicized indoctrination sessions designed to spread fear - in hopes of keeping employees down in name of 'well, don't be racist/sexist' - isn't worth working for.

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    Have you taken the same training course? If not, how do you know it is "unprofessional, heavily politicized indoctrination"? May 28 at 9:44
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    Seen enough recordings of it. Anyone knows how to behave in the workplace, disregarding rules doesn't mean they aren't known - these sessions have 1 purpose only; make it clear that if anyone ''steps out of line'' (e.g. criticizing the wrong person for a corporate issue) they're branded as ''wrong person'' for their job/career. It's disgusting.
    – Lucas
    May 28 at 9:52
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    Weird that this site exists if "anyone knows how to behave in the workplace", isn't it? May 28 at 9:55
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    When someone has to make up a completely fictitious story to support their case, which includes a nonsensical and absurd claim that every single time a man talks to a woman it's immediately and automatically deemed "mansplaining" [something itself for which I am confident you will be unable to provide supporting evidence], many people would self-reflect and realise that they don't really have a valid point. But... that's clearly too much for some. May 28 at 10:15
  • 4
    I know, self-reflection is indeed a difficult thing to ascribe to oneself Andy. Also, evidence points to James Damore.
    – Lucas
    May 28 at 10:25

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