Survey: 58% of Feds Said Trump Diversity Training Order was ‘Counterproductive’

A majority of respondents from minority groups reported that feeling misunderstood at work made it more difficult to perform their jobs.

A recent survey of federal workers found that 58% of respondents said that former President Trump’s executive order barring the use of so-called “divisive” diversity and inclusion training at federal agencies and contractors was “counterproductive.”

Last fall, Trump directed agencies and federal contractors to halt the use of diversity training that involved the use of critical race theory or otherwise denied the existence of systemic racism in the United States. Although the order gained praise from some conservative activists, the directive was largely panned by good government experts, federal employee groups and contractors themselves, who said it was based on an apparent misconception of what the vast majority of such training actually says, and could chill efforts to make workplaces more welcoming and equitable for employees of all backgrounds.

Last December, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the order from being enforced on federal contractors. And President Biden rescinded the order on his first day in office last week.

According to a survey conducted last week by the Government Business Council, the research arm of Government Executive, 72% of federal employees said that it was important or extremely important for federal agencies to be diverse and inclusive. Nearly 50% of respondents said that diversity and inclusion training created understanding at their agency, compared to 18% who said it created divisiveness.

Fully 69% of survey respondents said that they agreed with the idea that diversity and inclusion training is “vital” to an organization’s success, whether it is in the public or private sectors. But only 49% reported that the training provided by agencies “brought value” to their agencies.

Misunderstandings about a person’s identity in the workplace occurred “sometimes” or “often” for people of color compared with white federal workers, by a margin of 62% to 32%. Of those respondents, 63% of people of color said those misunderstandings made it more difficult to do their jobs, compared to 45% of white respondents.

And white respondents reported being more supported when reporting issues “arising from diverse identities and perspectives” than their minority counterparts, by a margin of 55% to 42% among people of color.

Although there is a gap between white federal workers and people of color in how they perceive issues of diversity and inclusion, the atmosphere seems to have improved somewhat in recent years. Overall, 43% of respondents reported being misunderstood sometimes or often, a decrease from 55% when a similar question was asked by GBC in 2015.

Similarly, 44% of respondents reported that their agency focuses “just the right amount” on diversity and inclusion efforts, compared to just 29% in 2015.

The survey was sent to a random sample of Government Executive Media Group subscribers during the week of Jan. 18. It received responses from 1,139 federal employees and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.