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Sensitivity Training
"I don't need sensitivity training... you strident, power-mad tart!"
Dick Solomon, 3rd Rock from the Sun

Usually this program is enacted in big organizations such as large companies or some government agencies.

A program that is intended to make the participants more aware of social issues in the work environment, (such as sexism, or bullying) and to teach how to act in a politically correct manner.

Often comes with ridiculously arbitrary rating systems where some behavior is called level 1 or 2 or color coded green or yellow or red card.

The subjects never like these programs, are always bored while enduring them. (Even the people whose life would be made better by such programs sometimes prefer being bullied over the sensitivity training.)

The sensitivity instructor tends to be a Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher who cheerfully throws out slogans like "labels disable". If male, the instructor will probably give off a bit of a Camp Gay vibe. If the "sensitivity" being worked on is about gender dynamics or sexual harassment, the instructor may be a Straw Feminist.

Often if someone is being nasty, he is asked to stop, "or do you want to go through sensitivity training again?"

Sometimes, sensitivity training is what employees must go through if they have nothing else to do, the group will then be very motivated if an order comes in.

In real life these items are entirely the company covering their asses against potential lawsuits, though the fact seems to rarely pop up in fiction.

This is not necessarily a case of Political Correctness Gone Mad, and also not necessarily an other kind of parody of PC related issues. But even if played straight it is still meant for semi-humorous effect, and the above mentioned characteristics are still present.


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Examples

    Comics 
  • In Dilbert, Dogbert is hired to do sensitivity training for the men in Dilbert's department.
    Dogbert: For this exercise, close your eyes and imagine what it's like to be a woman.
    Wally: People acknowledge my existence. They smile at me and open doors for no reason. I'm... I'm popular.
    Ted: I can't find my keys.
    Wally: I'm never going back. I can't. I won't.
    Ted: My blouse falls to the floor...
    Dogbert: (freaked out) Break! Break!
  • General Halftrack of Beetle Bailey had to go through this, though that was more a result of changing times and sexually harassing the secretary isn't really as funny these days. (But old guys hammering nails into boards to work out their pent-up sexual frustration is.)

    Literature 
  • In Havemercy the Dragon Corps gets sensitivity training from Thom after they cause an incident with the Arlemagne diplomat's wife.

    Films 
  • G. I. Jane. Before the title character starts SEAL training, all of the instructors have to receive sensitivity training so they know not to sexually harass her.

    Live Action TV 
  • NCIS toys with the concept every so often, usually in the context of Team Gibbs managing to avoid attending because of a case.
    • The season four episode "Driven" shows them actually attending a sexual harassment awareness lecture, and more specifically why it's probably for the best that they usually miss them. Jokes about "Red Light" and "Yellow Light" behavior continue throughout the entire episode.
      (Palmer raises his hand and the teacher calls on him)
      Palmer: Uh, what if your job includes touching naked people and—
      Teacher: That's inappropriate at any time.
      Palmer: Even if they're dead?
      (cue shocked look from teacher)
      Palmer: See, I work in autopsy...
    • Later in the episode:
      Tony: I believe this is a classic yellow light situation! (snaps a picture)
  • NCIS's parent show JAG also toyed with this concept, particulary in the early seasons.
    • In "Heroes", Harm and Mac have the following exchange:
      Mac: If you have some evidence I should know about...
      Harm: You'll eventually get it, and then you can plea-bargain.
      Mac: In your dreams, commander.
      Harm: Oh, you don't wanna be in my dreams, major.
      Mac: Red light, commander.
      Harm: Red light? (Pause) There was nothing sexual in what I said. And if you think there was, then maybe I should be giving you the red light, major.
  • Season one of Angel had the LAPD doing this. However, it was a ploy by Wolfram & Hart to disrupt to LAPD so a crime boss would be released, the sensitivity teacher magically enchanting them to be ludicrously open and emotional to everything. One of them ended up releasing all the prisoners, then trying to hug them.
  • In an early episode of The Office, everyone had to go to sensitivity training because Michael made a series of racial jokes... Hilarity Ensues.
  • Married... with Children. Jefferson is forced to go to a men's sensitivity training session. When he returns:
    Al: Jefferson! Good, you're right on time. The Three Stooges marathon is about to start.
    Jefferson: (monotone) The Three Stooges are not funny. You know who I think is funny? That Elaine Boosler is funny.
    Al: Oh my God! Those women have brainwashed him. We'll have to deprogram him!
    (holds up two fingers) Quick, how many fingers am I holding up? (pokes Jefferson in the eyes)
    Jefferson: Whoa, thanks Al. They almost had me that time.
  • Murphy Brown.
    Kay: Oh, good morning, my little worker ants! That's just a figure of speech; I would NEVER compare you to insects. At least not after that sensitivity training seminar those maggots at the network forced me to attend!
  • On 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dick once had to take sensitivity training. The real hilarity came when Dick left the training a changed man who hugged his students and gave them "happy faces" instead of grades.
  • After a Slap-Slap-Kiss goes wrong in Frasier, the station manager makes everyone attend a sexual harassment class.
  • The memorable seminar on Rescue Me results in the team listing off every ethnic slur they can think of.
  • Needless to say, the bastions of the 1st Amendment, Penn & Teller, mocked and argued against the idea in their show Bullshit! Here is their (rather Penn's) summary of the show.
  • Because the staff of Sacred Heart hospital is crawling with politically incorrect meathead male doctors (I mean heck, Dr. Kelso runs the damn place!), and, well, Dr. Cox, there has been a couple Scrubs episodes involving Sensitivity Training.
    • Most notably, the time Carla was stuck trying to make some of the hospitals view worst male sex joke offenders see her point of view. And this was the rant that finally persuaded Dr. Kelso to make Dr. Cox teach a sensitivity training class.
    • In Med School, J.D. says that he'll always be with Lucy "here ... and here", and touches her head and her stomach. Because the last time he tried to indicate a female student's heart, he had to watch a four-hour video called Boundries.
  • Not strictly Sensitivity Training or even compulsory, but the characters from The IT Crowd were persuaded to come to a stress-management seminar with the promise of free food. They managed to push the instructor into a violent rage and ended the day stressed beyond all reason.
  • An episode of Andy Richter Controls The Universe had the title character made to attend such a class. As it's starting, a man stands up in front of the room and starts stating offensive stereotypes, like, "Jews are greedy. Mexicans are lazy." etc., and Andy muses that the teacher's method of confronting the class bluntly with such views is effective...until the real teacher comes in, and it turns out the other guy is just another participant in the class, who apparently really needs it.
  • In the Corner Gas episode "Super Sensitive," Karen (a blonde) complained to the mayor about Davis telling dumb blonde jokes at work, so Davis had to attend sensitivity training. He became obsessed with political correctness after this (for example, Karen ordered black coffee and he corrected her by saying, "African-American!"), which Karen actually found more annoying than the blonde jokes.
  • In Rizzoli & Isles, Jane Rizzoli discovers she is an "equal opportunity offender" because she offends everyone when she is finally forced to go to sensitivity training in the second season episode "Gone Daddy Gone." None of the cops take the sensitivity training seriously. Jane spends most of the episode trying to hide from the sensitivity training instructor; Vince Korsak wants her to go only because he stands to get something out of it if she does go and a cop who had previously gone to sensitivity training is overheard insulting a suspect.
  • The Criminal Minds episode "The Black Queen" gives us a Crowning Moment of Funny in the form of a sexual harassment seminar based around Morgan and Garcia's sexy phone banter.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • From El Goonish Shive, Agent Wolf is threatened with sensitivity training because he keeps insisting that his boss's assistant Violet is an alien. The fact that she has a tail and antennae has nothing to do with anything.
  • Something Positive: Peejee was the only person in her department who passed the sexual harrassment seminar. Then she was sexually harassed by the instructor. Then the instructor was eaten by a Canadian Trap-door Alligator. Yeah, it's that kind of comic. There was an earlier arc at Davan's work where the seminar was called "Only Fat Ugly Lesbo-Whores Who Nobody Really Finds Attractive Sue for Gender Discrimination or Sexual Harassment". Davan made reference to previous lectures called "OSHA is Run by Rancid Pedophiles" and "The Asbestos Didn't Cause Birth Defects in your Baby: It Caused Birth Enhancements".
  • Mac Hall: Matt has problems with this.
  • In the "Canadian" chapter of Spinnerette, Cpt. Alberta had supposedly undergone such a training, as a condition to stay a member of the Canadian superhero team. It didn't quite work, and his subsequent removal from the team only made it worse.

    Web Original 
  • In Misadventures Of Awkward Black Girl J has to go to a mandatory "support group" for people with anger management issues after she snaps over a stapler. The people in there also get angry over stupid things, though are more blatantly crazy than her. One person gets angry when people don't let the microwave time out, and another gets angry when people send e-mails in Comic Sans. J ends up going on dates with the leader of the group. In another episode Amir, J's racist coworker, comes back from being Put on a Bus and says that he was in Racial Sensitivity Training.

    Western Animation 
  • South Park Sexual Harassment Panda...
  • Peter Griffin had to undergo sensitivity training due to his sexist remarks; of course, this being Family Guy, Hilarity Ensues.
  • Phineas and Ferb: In one episode, the Flynn-Fletchers were sailing and Baljeet and Buford were watching over Perry the Platypus for them, which kept him from responding to Major Monogram's call. Monogram commented he couldn't send another animal agent because all of them were doing sensitivity training.
    • In another episode, Major Monogram was doing sensitivity training and his response to Carl saying animal agents were exempt from it suggested what Monogram needed the training for.

    Real Life 
  • According to Bill Maher, before a group of firefighters was allowed to help hurricane survivors they were required to attend a 8 hour sexual harassment sensitivity training course. Many would query whether sexual harassment sensitivity training is related to hurricanes and see this as a classic example of Political Correctness Gone Mad. However, traumatized disaster survivors are extremely vulnerable and easily taken advantage of and aid workers are often in a position of such authority that even the best-meaning agencies have some individuals who will do rather horrible things. Pleasant nightmares.
  • In one of the real-life stories accompanying The Trenches, a game developer dismissed a bug report and insulted the testing department, calling them "glorified monkeys banging on controllers", which the testers basically turned into an in-office meme. Once the bosses caught wind of it, and confirmed that the testers indeed knew what they were talking about, they made all full-time employees go through a two-hour meeting on basic courtesy.

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