Sensitivity training also known as T-group approach (T stands for training), laboratory training or encounter group. It evolved from group dynamics concept of Kurt Lewin. The first sensitivity training session was held in 1946 in State Teachers College, New Britain, USA. Since then it spread to numerous training centers in the USA and other countries.
Sensitivity in one word is empathy. It is ability of an individual to sense what others feels and think from their own point of view.
i. To make participants increasingly aware of, and sensitive to, the emotional reactions and expressions in themselves and others.
ii. To increase the ability of participants to perceive, and to learn from, the consequences of their actions through attention to their own and other’s feelings.
iii. To stimulate the clarification and development of personal values and goals .
iv. To develop behavioural effectiveness in participants.
v. To develop concepts and theoretical framework for linking personal values and goals to actions.
Process of Sensitivity Training
During Sensitivity training a small group of members (10-12) are brought together in a free and open environment in which they discuss themselves and their interactive processes. Based on source from where these members are drawn, there may be three types of T-group : stranger-lab, cousin –lab and family lab.
In stranger-lab all participants are from different organizations and they are stranger to each other. In cousin lab they are from same organization but different units. They may know each other but not too well. In a family lab, the participants are from the same unit and know each other quite well.
Delbecq has described the following sequential events during sensitivity training:
i. In the beginning, there is an intentional lack of directive leadership, formal agenda, and recognized power ad status. This creates a behavioral vaccum which the participants fill with enormously rich projections of traditional behavior.
ii. In the second phase, the trainer becomes open, non defensive and empathetic and way. However, the major impact on each participant comes from the feedback received from here and now behavior of the other group members.
iii. In the third phase, interpersonal relationships develop. The members serve as resources to one another and facilitate experimentation with new personal, inter-personal and collaborative behavior.
iv. The last phase attempts to explore the relevance of the experience in terms of ‘ back-home’ situations and problems.
The above sequence of events is more relevant for strange lab. For cousin –lab and family-lab, some adjustments is made in the above sequence and more attention is given to inter-group linkages in the form of interfacing of diagnostic surveys, interviews and confrontation sessions dealing with a variety of policy, problem solving and interpersonal issues.
A comprehensive research review of OD interventions by Porras and Berg suggests that sensitivity training is the second most researched intervention after team building. It has attracted lot of appraisal both in positive and negative forms.