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EXCLUSIVE: BDO Mandates 'Subtle Acts Of Exclusion' Training For Employees

'I Felt Personally Attacked' an Employee Who Referred To The Training As 'Indoctrination' told Timcast

On Thursday, financial advisory company BDO mandated employees to complete a Subtle Acts of Exclusion (SAE) training.

BDO employees were tasked with completing the company’s new diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training by Jan. 17, according to a company statement obtained by Timcast. The training reportedly builds on previous “Disrupting Unconscious Bias” courses provided to employees.

“I know everyone will see the value and benefits of this training as we continue to advance our DEI strategy and provide education and skills to all professionals,” said Chief DEI Officer Bernie Pieters.

“Recognizing and responding appropriately to subtle acts of exclusion, and taking steps to prevent them, allows everyone to bring their most authentic selves to work — especially those from marginalized groups — to feel valued and included,” read the companywide announcement. “This course defines subtle acts of exclusion, explains what they look and sound like, and prepares learners to be inclusive when interacting across differences.”

All BDO USA employees received an email from Pieters, according to one employee who spoke to Timcast under the condition of anonymity.

“The e-mail was about a mandatory training that every single employee in BDO should take about ‘Subtle Acts of Exclusions’ or as they call it SAE,” said the employee who participated in the training. “They define SAE as any unintentional conduct that results in another co-worker to feel excluded or offended.”

The employee said the training felt like “indoctrination.”

One of the examples featured a trans woman being “misgendered” by a fellow employee, according to the BDO employee who said all of the videos and illustrations exclusively featured white people engaging in SAE.

One slide defined religious SAE as comments or actions based on someone’s religion — “usually directed at those who do not follow a Christian faith.”

“I felt personally attacked with this last definition because as a Catholic Latino I’ve witnessed Christians [be] publicly mocked, [have] their faith questioned, etc. directly — not indirectly nor in a subtle way as SAE — in public spaces, media and TV way more [frequently] than any other religion,” the employee told Timcast. “This definition of SAE about religion implies that Christians are the least or [most] rarely bullied.”

The employee added: “It is totally unnecessary to give us such a a meaningless and confusing training right before our busiest season of the year.”

Released in 2020, Subtle Acts of Exclusion: How to Understand, Identify, and Stop Microaggressions was created by Dr. Tiffany Jana and Dr. Michael Baran and describes itself as a handbook to help individuals and organizations “recognize and prevent microaggressions in the workplace.”

“Whether in the form of exaggerated stereotypes, backhanded compliments, unfounded assumptions, or objectification, SAE are insidious and damaging to our coworkers and colleagues,” reads a blurb on the handbook’s website.

Jana is the founder and CEO of TMI Portfolio, a collection of socially responsible and interconnected companies working to advance more culturally inclusive and equitable workforces, according to the website.

Baran is a Senior Partner and Digital Solutions Lead at inQUEST Consulting.

BDO International is a worldwide company offering assurance, tax, and financial advisory services currently serving more than 400 publicly traded domestic and international clients.

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