Posted on March 1, 2024

Rolling Your Eyes Is Racist – Nod Your Head Instead, Civil Servants Told

Daniel Martin, The Telegraph, January 31, 2024

Civil servants are being told that rolling their eyes or looking at their mobile phones can be evidence of sexual or racial discrimination, as part of controversial diversity training.

Public officials have instead been trained to nod their heads to promote transparency and inclusion.

More than £160,000 has been spent by the Government since 2021 hiring private sector consultants to train staff to spot “microaggressions”, according to a report by The Times.

But feedback from trainees has been scathing, with most saying they did not enhance their knowledge.

Training cost more than £1,000 per worker

There is scarce research into whether interventions to reduce microaggressions in the workplace are effective.

The government body responsible for monitoring the value of spending in schools, the Education and Skills Funding Agency, spent more than £1,000 per worker on microaggressions training for a handful of staff.

Recently, a British woman of Indian descent complained that she was the victim of racial discrimination when bosses raised their eyebrows at each other while she was talking. She lost her case.

Official training sessions in microaggressions began in 2021, according to figures released by the Cabinet Office under freedom of information laws.

The most enthusiastic branches of government have been the Department for Transport, which spent £64,807, and the Competition and Markets Authority, the regulatory body, which spent £61,776.

Berkshire Consultancy, which has been teaching staff from the CMA, claims that microaggression was specifically aimed at minorities to discriminate against them.

A proposal document that featured Berkshire Consultancy’s logo, obtained from the CMA, said that microaggressions “communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalised group”.

The Times asked Berkshire Consultancy who it regarded as marginalised and socially devalued groups and how it decided whether someone was a member, but there was no reply.

Public servants were also introduced to the concept of “microaffirmations” such as a nod of the head or asking someone different to contribute in a meeting.

These techniques may be used “to create a culture of transparency and inclusion”.

Feedback overwhelmingly negative

The Department for Work & Pensions spent £13,728 on microaggressions training for 45 digital staff, with its main suppliers the consultancies KPMG and Ernst & Young. The feedback was overwhelmingly negative.

The Department for Education spent £4,576 getting KPMG to run a workshop for just four workers from the Education and Skills Funding Agency, part of £18,304 spent by the DfE on microaggressions training. HMRC spent £4,576 on a KPMG course for 12 staff.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said that the Government was considering introducing a presumption against external spending on equality, diversity and inclusion.

“Like any employer, we offer a range of learning and development opportunities to give staff the skills they need to succeed in their roles but now make clear that courses must be assessed for value for money, and clear justifications must be provided for procuring learning and development activity,” the spokesman said.