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Sensitivity Training

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"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 and 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 sappy 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 who thinks All Men Are Perverts.

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. When a sexual harassment or hostile work environment suit comes up (and if the organization is large and old enough, it's not a question of "if" but rather "when"), the firm that you hired to represent you will not be thrilled if they find that you haven't updated your sensitivity training material in thirteen years or done much with it outside of a few token sections in the employee handbook.

This is not necessarily Political Overcorrectness, but even if played straight, it is still meant for semi-humorous effect, and the above-mentioned characteristics are still present.

No Real Life Examples, Please! There's much debate whenever this practice should be standard, which is a Flame War waiting to happen when identity politics are involved.


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    Comic Strips 
  • 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.)

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.

  • In Havemercy, the Dragon Corps gets sensitivity training from Thom after they cause an incident with the Arlemagne diplomat's wife.
  • Hellion's Henchmen from Super Minion has a sensitivity training program. And, due to the career of everyone going through it, it includes useful information such as gang signs. Tofu is actually excited at the chance to go through it since it helps him understand why things he says keep offending people.

    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)
      Teacher: Why are you touching dead naked people?!
      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, particularly 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 the 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. When the moderator starts handing out workbooks Bulldog reveals he already has one from the last time he was forced to take the class. The session ends when Julia, who was part of the Slap-Slap-Kiss incident, promises that she has no intention of suing the station and is willing to put it in writing if it means she can leave. Cue everyone else walking out as the moderator tries to insist they still have work to do.
  • 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, 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 Boundaries.
  • 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," Davis and Oscar laugh it up telling Dumb Blonde jokes, which offends Karen (who is blonde). She forces Davis to go to sensitivity training, which perhaps works on him a little too well. When he comes back, he's a walking example of Political Overcorrectness. For example, when Karen orders black coffee, he corrects her by saying "African-American". Karen finds him even more insufferable this way, so she teams up with Oscar and they tell him blonde jokes until he goes back to normal. Then Karen tells a joke about a pygmy, a monk, and a cannibal. We don't get to hear it, but it's apparently bad enough that she gets sent to sensitivity training herself.
  • 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" has a sexual harassment seminar based around Morgan and Garcia's sexy phone banter.
  • What I Like About You: When Holly was working with Val's PR firm, she had to go to a sexual harassment seminar. The only takeaway she got was that she had to tell her attractive male boss that he's "looking sharp" instead of calling him "a smoking hunk of love."
    Holly: Lookin' sharp, Vic!
    Vic: Aw! I miss being a smoking hunk of love. Stupid seminars.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • The Adventures Of Business Cat:
    • "Sensitivity" has two employees look at a cat meme, and Business Cat looks concerned. He sends them to "Racial Sensitivity Training" in response.
    • "Superstition" has Janet be sent to the Racial Sensitivity Training for saying that crossing a black cat is bad luck.
  • From El Goonish Shive, Agent Wolf is threatened with sensitivity training because he keeps insisting that his boss's assistant Lavender is an alien. The fact that she has a tail and antennae has nothing to do with anything.
  • Schlock Mercenary: Sorlie uses the phrase "monk on my back," as an alternative to "monkey on my back," because that's the kind of correction that sensitivity classes teach when monkeys have been uplifted to sapience and are your coworkers.
  • Something*Positive: Peejee was the only person in her department who passed the sexual harassment 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 
  • Inside Job (2021): In "Blue Bloods", after J.R. accidentally insults the Secret Reptilian Overlords, the entire team is forced to go to sensitivity training before attending the annual reptoid banquet.
  • South Park: In "Sexual Harassment Panda", the school brings in... the Sexual Harassment Panda, a singing and dancing mascot (who actually believes he's a panda) to teach the kids about sexual harassment. Cue Cartman suing Stan for "sexual harassment" after Stan calls him an "ass-licker" and winning with the help of Kyle's dad. This inspires more frivolous lawsuits until the entire town sues the entire town.
  • Family Guy: In "I Am Peter, Hear Me Roar", Peter Griffin gets in trouble for telling a sexist joke to a female co-worker. His boss tries to reassure the woman's lawyer (Gloria Ironbachs) that the company takes measures to curb that sort of behavior, and mentions a mandatory sensitivity training video... which turns out to be horribly outdated and even more sexist than Peter's joke. Peter is then sent to a sensitivity training class held by Ironbachs, but being who he is, Peter completely fails to learn anything. As a more drastic measure, he is then sent to a women's retreat, which works a little too well — he is more sensitive, but then starts acting like he thinks he's a woman.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


South Park's tolerance camp

Godwin's law in this case, by comparing sensitivity training to concentration camps like Auschwitz, overworking the condemned at gunpoint and under heavy surveillance.

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