Sensitivity Training

The Sensitivity Training refers to the unorganized meeting held between the group members, generally fewer in number, away from the workplace to gain the insights of their own as well as others behavior.

Simply, the sensitivity training means, putting oneself in the other member’s shoes and behaving in a given situation from his point of view. It is the mental ability than an individual possesses, that enables him to be sensitive and understand the emotions of others, and at the same time, being able to manage one’s own behavior and impulses.

It is one of the Organizational Development techniques for bringing up change that try to improve organizational effectiveness and employee wellbeing. It also helps the participants to learn and adjust with the group dynamics. This technique was developed in 1940s by Ronald Lippitt and Kurt Lewin

It refers to changing behavior through unstructured group interaction. It can also be called laboratory training, T-groups and encounter groups interchangeably. Members of different gender, culture and abilities are brought together in a free and open environment, in which participants discuss different issues in an interactive way. It is loosely directed by a professional behavior scientist who creates opportunities for everybody to express their ideas, emotions, perceptions, attitudes and beliefs. Nobody is a leader in such an interaction. This group in process oriented, meaning that everybody learns by observing and participating rather than being ordered or told to do a certain activity.

Importance of Sensitivity Training:

  • It helps employees be sensitive to the existing diversity in the workplace. It leads to better understanding between members of the organization
  • Helps to build good interpersonal relationships with their team members
  • Educates the members about constructive behavior which will benefit everybody working in the organization.
  • Helps managers get an insight into their own behavior
  • Helps to develop correct behavioral and emotional actions

Disadvantages of Sensitivity Training:

  • Many participants find these activities unstructured and chaotic
  • It might damage the work relations between employees
  • Superior-subordinate relationship is tampered because it is an informal activity
  • Participants are not able to express what they truly believe because of the presence of a behavior scientist
  • It doesn’t find out any deep psychological reason for a person behaving in a certain manner

This method of organizational development was extremely famous in 1960s; By 1970s the use of this method diminished and has eventually disappeared.

However, organizational interventions such as diversity training, team building exercise and coaching have evolved of the organizational development technique. Feedback is a very important element of this training. It helps the manager know if the attitude and behavior he/she is inhibiting is effective or not.

Three Steps essential for a sensitivity training program

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  1. Unfreezing the old values: The group members should keep their old beliefs or perceptions about the other members aside and motivate them to speak freely, whatever is in their minds. By doing so, there is a chance that each member will be heard carefully, and new relations can be formed by eliminating the misconceptions, that were created in the past.
  2. Development of New Values: Once the member is allowed to speak freely, the behavior of each other can be determined easily, through the interactions in the form of feedback. Thus, at this stage, the members start developing the values or beliefs about each other.
  3. Re-Freezing the new ones: The beliefs formed through the interactions with each group member, individual tries to freeze the perception or behavior in his mind. The success of sensitivity training depends on how the trainees get an opportunity to practice their new behaviors at their workplace.

Under the sensitivity training, each member is allowed to speak freely, whatever he feels about the other member or the working conditions. The objective of sensitivity training is to enable each member to know what is his behavior and how others perceive him.

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