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Nonprofit Boss Stirs Drama By Refusing Diversity Training For Staff Because It’s Too Expensive

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As the workplace continues to evolve along with society, various trainings on topics like diversity, inclusion, and harassment have become more and more commonplace.

But if you feel your company is already diverse, do you have an obligation to train your staff on such matters?

Manager and Redditor Punanistan recently encountered this issue at his small nonprofit, so he turned to the subReddit “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) to see if he was in the wrong, asking:

“AITA for refusing to authorize diversity training in our workplace?”

The original poster (OP) explained how an employee recently approached him about offering the training.

“I am the manager of a relatively small nonprofit organization that provides hot meals and other basic services to homeless people and to others with low income in our local community.”

“Last week, one of our employees came to my office to pitch to me the idea of doing diversity and inclusion training for our staff.”

“I have no problem with that, but when she told me that it would cost at least $3,000 and up to $8,000, I immediately shot it down.”

The OP balked at the price tag.

“She kept pressing me on it and tried to justify it, and then I started to get annoyed. I guess this is where I may be the AH.”

“I snapped at her and told her that is a ridiculous amount to pay for a few days of training, and I told her that the fact that she thinks this money is worth spending (when that amount could pay for thousands of meals) makes me question her judgment, especially that she is in charge of some of the finances of the organization.”

He also felt that their small and already diverse staff didn’t need that kind of training in the first place.

“I also pointed out the obvious to her, which is the fact that out of ten staff members, seven of us (including myself) are minorities/POC (people of color), and that eight are women.”

“Clearly, we do not have a diversity issue in our organization. I told her there are probably plenty of free resources online that we can use, and that I would not sign off on anything that will cost us more than $500.”

After upsetting the employee, the OP is having some doubts about his actions.

“I could tell that she was upset when she left my office, but I honestly didn’t care at the time. Another employee overheard our conversation and thought I was quite an a**hole about it.”

“Now I’m wondering if I was too harsh, but I have a fiduciary responsibility to our donors and our board of directors, which is why I could not agree to it.”

“Was I being reasonable or was I an AH?”

Redditors weighed in on the situation by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Many agreed with the OP for shutting down the expensive idea.

“NTA. $3,000-$8,000 for 10 people, that sounds fishy to me.”—IAmGettingThePig

“NTA… I’d question her judgement too. You’re right that’s lot of money for such a small organization, not to mention a non-profit.”—ollyator

“NTA. Why pay thousands of dollars to address a problem that hasn’t surfaced instead of on feeding the hungry during a time when that’s desperately needed?”—Clarisse1984

“NTA – She brought an idea, you said no.”

“Should have been end of interaction, but she decided to push the issue. For a 10 person company even $500 sounds like $500 too much to me.”

“Simple solution IMO (in my opinion): ‘You want diversity training, fine, you do it. You’ll have 30 minutes to give your diversity presentation after _X_ meeting two weeks from now.'”—Sneaky__Fox85

Some were even suspicious of the employee’s motivations.

“Yeahhhh….with that price tag, I’d be wondering whether she was somehow connected to the company that she was pitching they hire to do the training.”—icecreampenis

“NTA, I wonder if she’s involved with the company doing the training and will get a cut if you pay for it?”—RLB406

“Yeah it sounded like she was going to get a pay-out for referring a new client.”—MadnessEvangelist

But many criticized the OP for how he went about things.

“Your reason for shutting the idea down was fine. You can easily do the training in a more cost affective way the way you described.”

“But YTA for speaking to your employee like that. From your post you sounded condescending.”

“If you’re a manager learn to be a leader. Leaders don’t talk down to their team.”—MicAdelie

“I do think you were rude to your employee, although I ultimately agree with your decision.”

“With everything going on surrounding race right now, I think your employee was likely feeling helpless in the face of overwhelming systemic forces and she wanted to feel like she was doing something about it.”

“I’m assuming she’s an empathetic person based on the fact that she’s working for this cause, so she may be feeling a lot right now.”

“I’d suggest inviting her into your office when you have a chance to talk about these things. Take off your finance hat and ask her how she’s been doing lately and how she’s been feeling about everything in the news.”

“She may just need an outlet to talk about this stuff, and y’all might even be able to brainstorm some workable ideas that won’t break the budget.”—greapfruitmixup

“It sounds like you have good reasons for not paying for the training, but YTA for snapping at your employee.”

“Bosses set the tone of the workplace. You need to control yourself.”

“Non-profits often involve long hours and they never pay well. Combine low pay with a snarky or domineering boss and there goes your workplace morale.”—Strange-Art9901

“NTA for the decision as you have to weigh up the costs/benefits of such a large amount of money very carefully. There’s a lot to be said for a good D&I program but it’s hard to see that as a priority in an already quite diverse group.”

“However, you may have been an a**hole for how you handled it, if a third party overheard *the whole conversation* and thought that. How hard was she pushing?”—andylovestokyo

Several Redditors also pointed out just because a workplace is diverse doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t issues that need addressing.

“Uh, I’d like to note that having women and some minorities doesn’t mean that they don’t need sensitivity training, women and poc can be racist/sexist too, probably in part bc we ‘poc’ aren’t the exact same, lol”—anbigsteppy

“Yeah. So, I worked at a nonprofit where the staff was 75% Black.”

“One Black staff member kept perpetuating inappropriate comments about Asian Americans and Latinos.”

“Nobody called her on it or counseled her for it, despite the fact that we served students of all backgrounds.”

“I was the one who had to say something.”

“Everyone has their biases. Racial bias training is for everyone.”—MxMirdan

“Honestly, I think you need to (calmly and gently) ask your employee if there is a specific reason for suggesting the training.”

“To be clear, I don’t think you are wrong for shooting down such an expensive program, but it sounds like you were a dick about it and really tore into her and her abilities.”

“I have worked a lot in small offices and interpersonal politics can be delicate; I’m sure there is no HR she could report anything to, so it’s your job to be approachable and deal with personnel problems. You can’t just be a numbers guy.”

“And hey, maybe at the end of the day she is in cahoots with the training company like others have suggested. Maybe her judgment isn’t good for suggesting an expensive program.”

“But there could be a good reason she suggested it in the first place and it’s your duty to figure that out to ensure you are providing a safe working environment for everyone who is your responsibility.”—c*ntakinte118

“NAH. Diversity training doesn’t just become irrelevant because you have a diverse workplace.”

“Many people are still unaware of the socio-economic impacts facing certain populations and how to handle related situations.”

“On the other hand, you manage a non-profit and while the training may be useful and would reflect well on your team, your job is to make the tough calls with regards to finances. If it’s not a viable option right now, that’s it.”—ouatedephoq

“Agreed.”

“Just because you think you have a diversity of staff doesn’t mean that you couldn’t do with having an idea of the wider context you work in.”

“In fact not having many men, or people of certain backgrounds, can be just as damaging as companies overwhelmed with just one set of people.”

“If the training is too expensive, that’s totally fine, but it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t benefit you all. I think finding something cheaper, or government led or something would be a benefit from.”

“Things like exploring unconscious bias, and disability etc. benefits your colleagues and the communities you serve.”

“To me, and my L&D background, diversity training is a simple staple of yearly training for everyone. You could probably pay to access an online system which you do once a year alongside data protection, finance etc. etc.”

“Definitely think you can get more for that kind of money, but I think the content is important.”—hotairballoon52

It sounds like although the OP was in the right to reject the training with such a steep price tag, he could’ve gone about things in a more professional and encouraging manner.

Hopefully he’s open to the idea of looking into diversity and inclusivity training for his staff that is effective and doesn’t break the bank.

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Written by Brian Skellenger

Brian is an actor, musician, writer, babysitter, and former Olympian. One of these things is a lie. Based in NYC, Brian honed his skills in the suburbs of Minneapolis, where he could often be seen doing jazz squares down the halls of his middle school. After obtaining a degree in musical theatre, he graced the stages of Minneapolis and St. Paul before making the move to NYC. In his spare time, Brian can be found playing board games, hitting around a volleyball, and forcing friends to improvise with him.