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I’ve been getting more requests for cultural sensitivity training lately.

The scenario is almost always the same: Manager has a habit of saying inappropriate things to staff or customers. One day, one of those staff members or customers files a complaint, or shares evidence of the bad behavior on social media (or both). The organization then launches a frantic search for “cultural sensitivity training” for the offending manager.

If your organization is on such a frantic search, or would like to avoid being in that position, these are the inconvenient truths that will actually solve your problem. Usually, “cultural sensitivity training” won’t.

Training is a solution only if lack of knowledge or skills is the problem. Does the manager know what behaviors are appropriate and inappropriate? If they do and they’re behaving inappropriately anyway, then training won’t fix the problem — you need accountability and progressive discipline (or termination). If they don’t, training may actually help. But if this is the case, the manager’s gap in knowledge and skills raises two questions: (1) How were they never onboarded or trained properly in the first place? (2) How were they hired or promoted into a leadership position without first possessing necessary basic skills in empathy, emotional intelligence and effective communication? The answers likely point to systems flaws that must be addressed to avoid similar problems.

Trainers can’t do a manager’s job. Trainers cannot hold your staff or leaders accountable for doing appropriate behaviors in the workplace. That’s their boss’s job.

If a person has been allowed to treat people inappropriately over time with no meaningful consequences, the problem is a lack of leadership and accountability in your organization. Leaders who allow a handful of people, or one person, to bully and disrespect others, bring down morale and put your reputation and revenue at stake are poor leaders. They are stifling productivity and innovation and creating risk and liability for your entire organization.

Take a stand for your excellent employees, your mission, and your future, and put a stop to the inappropriate behavior. It’s a sad fact that many capable people who excel at their jobs are rewarded by being promoted into a new role (leadership) that requires an entirely different skillset. Leadership is difficult, and it’s not a fit for everyone. If you’re struggling with being a fair yet decisive leader who holds people to high standards, examine your willingness to grow and get mentoring and coaching if you are.  Read the rest on Workforce Magazine!

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