Leaked Target Training Manual Tries To Script Managers' Responses To Messy Stereotype Situations

Target's (NYSE:TGT) troubles with training manuals don't seem to be going away. Barely a week after the retail chain was sued over an unofficial diversity training document used at a single Sacramento warehouse, an official manual used chainwide has surfaced—and it doesn't exactly polish Target's image, the Huffington Post reported.

The 49-page manual titled "Diversity Scripts for Stores" doesn't have the racial and ethnic stereotypes that the Sacramento "multicultural tips" included, and in some ways it's a classic training document for a sensitive area—that is, it's over-lawyered to the point of uselessness. The manual consists of scenarios with titles such as "'Terrorized' Team Member," "It's Just an Expression" and "No Hablo Espanol," with suggested scripts for managers to follow when situations like those in the scenarios arise.

One example: An employee uses a stereotype about African-Americans in a group meeting. The manager's scripted response: "Wait a minute. We're not going to solve our problems by talking about other people's work habits. In fact, all these comments can do is pull our team apart – and I'm not going to tolerate them. Now, any other ideas for getting those productivity numbers up?" That's to be followed by a longer (also scripted) conversation with the employee privately about using stereotypes.

It's not actually a bad approach—don't let the stereotype pass without comment, get the meeting back on point, deal with the stereotype issue privately later. But like many good ideas at large retailers, putting it in a manual that's so carefully crafted to meet legal requirements makes it sound ridiculous. The existence of the official manual is something lawyers can point to during a lawsuit, but a script isn't really very helpful for real-world incidents, which are just too messy.

Scripts also tend to be politically correct—in that stereotyping example, the employee doing the stereotyping referred to herself as "African" and the group she was stereotyping as "African-Americans." Yes, that could happen, but it's not the most likely racial-stereotyping situation a manager might have to deal with.

Target confirmed the authenticity of the manual, which is distributed to Target stores. "This resource was created to help ensure our team continues to handle diversity conversation in the most sensitive way possible," spokeswoman Molly Snyder told the Huffington Post. "This was one element of a larger program designed to foster open, honest, respectful conversations."

For more:

- See this Huffington Post story

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