The Current

Evidence shows Starbucks' anti-bias training may backfire, says expert

As Starbucks closes U.S. stores today for racial bias training, critics argue companies are going about diversity training all wrong as research suggests it can have a negative effect.

Harvard researcher suggests diversity training may do more harm than good

April 16, 2018, protesters demonstrate inside a Philadelphia Starbucks where two black men were arrested earlier that week. (Mark Makela/Reuters)
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Across the U.S. on Tuesday, Starbucks is closing its doors to the public so employees can undergo diversity training in an effort to tackle unconscious bias.

The mandatory anti-bias training comes after an incident in April prompted outrage when a Starbucks employee called 911 to remove two black patrons waiting for a friend at a Philadelphia location.

Starbucks is closing 8,000 U.S. stores at 2 p.m., May 29, to train employees on racial tolerance. Canadian locations will have their diversity training on June 11. (Gene J. Puskar/Scott Mayerowitz/AP)

​Anti-bias training is increasingly common across many organizations but there are questions about how effective it is. Research cited by a Harvard study suggests many companies go about it all wrong.

"It's really important for trainers to not come across as judgmental or patronizing," says Western University assistant professor Javeed Sukhera who researches bias in the healthcare system. 1:03

To discuss the issue, The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti was joined by:

  • Bob Joseph, the founder and president of Indigenous Corporate Training. His approach when delivering training is to address the myths and misconceptions that inform bias. 
  • Javeed Sukhera, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University who studies unconscious bias in the healthcare system. He wants to see companies change along with their employees and advocates for followup after training.

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this page.


This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath and Julie Crysler.

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