An elephant in the room
An equality and diversity training manual
By Blair McPherson

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Most people are not racist, sexist, homophobic, ageist or prejudiced against faith groups, and they don't deliberately make life harder for people with a disability. However, they are bombarded with negative stereotypes and myths in their daily lives. Their own limited opportunity for mixing with people different to them can lead to ignorance, insensitivity and unthinking prejudice.

The photocopiable material in this manual can be used with small discussion groups to challenge these negative stereotypes, myths and prejudices by increasing awareness. The discussion-based approach aims to get people in the workplace talking openly about race, gender, disability, faith, age and sexuality.

An elephant in the room gives managers, trainers and personnel staff the material to raise the profile of equality and diversity in their organisation. Taken as a whole the manual can help:
  • change the way people think and behave at work
  • enable managers to be better people managers
  • enable the organisation to realise the full benefits of a diverse workforce
  • increase the awareness and sensitivity of staff towards their colleagues and their customers
  • create equality and diversity champions.

  • The manual recognises the importance of developing leadership from the top, of creating a safe environment for people to challenge and be challenged, and of creating champions to keep equality and diversity high on the organisation's agenda.

    Covering issues of race, gender, disability, faith, age and sexuality in relation to recruiting a truly representative workforce, getting the best out of a diverse staff group and delivering services to the whole community, the material can be used:
  • Either as part of an equality and diversity training programme
  • Or as one-off material in a team/staff meeting.

    Each chapter comprises:
  • a short synopsis that defines the issue and can be used as an introduction to the topic by the trainer
  • a photocopiable discussion article
  • a series of discussion questions
  • references to sources of further information so that individuals can explore the issues in more depth.
  • The sources are also good background reading for trainers. There are also some good practice examples relating to the issues raised in the discussion articles and discussion questions.

    The manual deals with issues familiar to those who undertake work in all agencies - statutory, voluntary and private - relating to social care, housing and health. But as a tool to promote equality, it will be of use to anyone working in HR, whatever type of organisation or business they are in. The approach taken to equality and diversity training has been found to be very effective in engaging staff at all levels because it allows people to relate to their own experience and to issues they come across in their workplace.

    A4 wirob. 96 pages. 978-1-905541-16-4. Published 2007. £22.95


    Managers, practitioners and personnel staff working in the statutory, voluntary and private sectors, particularly those in social care, housing, health, community services and adult learning.


    Establishing equality in the workplace
    Leadership and equality and diversity
    Headhunters, beauty parades and trial by sherry
    Supermarkets show us the way
    Losing balance on the ladder
    Good practice examples: developing an equality and diversity training framework for the whole oganisation
    Balanced interview panels
    Climbing the ladder of success
    How to recruit more black and ethnic minority staff
    Black workers' development group
    Equality and diversity as it applies to service delivery
    Faith, tolerance and the acceptance of diversity
    Chinese lesson
    Old and gay
    Good practice examples: culturally appropriate care
    What can I do as a manager?
    Civil partnerships and sexuality
    Creating the opportunities for staff to challenge and be challenged
    Creating a safe place
    Challenging racism by letting people have their say
    We are the champions
    I hope I die before I get old
    Gay may be trendy, but have attitudes really changed?
    Frequently asked questions
    Equality and diversity training course for managers


    Blair McPherson
    is Director of Community Services at Lancashire County Council. He has worked as a senior manager in social services and in a large Housing Association, and is currently working with three Primary Care Trusts. His passion for equality and diversity arose out of his experience in working in inner city Birmingham and is reflected in over 40 articles published in professional journals.


    "'An Elephant in the Room' is used to describe a big topic everyone is ignoring or pretending doesn't exist because it is too scary. In this book, issues of racism, sexism, ageism and discrimination are the big scary topics that need to be tackled and not ignored. The manual should help many staff groups make the topics less scary and more accessible. The manual is designed to be used by small discussion groups and that is what makes it valuable. The material is all very accessible and in each section worksheets can be copied easily for a seminar. It is specifically designed so that staff at all levels can come together to tackle the topics that can distance people and discriminate against some workers….clearly laid out. Topics covered include faith and tolerance, how can white managers know what services black and minority people want, culturally appropriate care, old and gay and civil partnerships and sexuality…the author shows he is not scared of the topics many want to avoid... easy to follow." Rostrum.

    "McPherson's book helps to make difficult issues around discrimination something that we can all relate to. The book is well set out, with clear instructions on how to use the manual." Community Care.

    "…offers material for use in discussion groups in the workplace that can challenge negative stereotypes, myths and prejudices. It emphasises the importance of creating a safe environment for people to challenge and be challenged and creating equality champions." Young People Now.

    "Will be of use to anyone working in human resources, whatever type of organisation or business they are in, including the magistracy. The materials in the manual have been devised so that they can be photocopied and issued as handouts for groups for discussion. Each section has a synopsis for the use of the trainer and a full description of the scenario, as well as a set of questions that can be used for group discussion and a set of references for further information. It is written in a straightforward way that everybody can understand - its simplicity is excellent. A highly recommended equality and training manual." The Magistrate.