Diversity Management Implementation and the Market for Organizational Concerns

Annette Risberg, Hervé Corvellec

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Abstract

Diversity management has come of age after years of activist academic advocacy that diversity is offering a new paradigm for management (Gilbert, Stead, & Ivancevich, 1999; Ivancevich and Gilbert, 2000). The potential business case (Inge, Pascale, & Erik, 2010; Risberg and Søderberg, 2008; Robinson and Dechant, 1997) lies, for example, in the ability of diversity management to accompany the changes in working population (Olsen and Martins, 2012), or to translate diversity into a resource for companies (Bendick Jr, Egan, & Lanier, 2010) and to meet the global generalization of legislation against discrimination (Nishii and Özbilgin, 2007). It stands as a plea for justice and sustainability in employment relationships (Inge, et al., 2010) but also a way to exploit the potential of diversity for creativity and innovation (Bassett-Jones, 2005). No matter if, diversity management can re‐assert the privacy of the corporate sphere (Kersten, 2000) or even run against its proclaimed objectives of combatting inequalities and the repression of minorities in the workplace (Lorbiecki and Jack, 2000), how to translate diversity management ambitions into actual practices (Boxenbaum, 2006; Risberg and Søderberg, 2008) has become an all the more pressing issue for practitioners and academics. To address this issue how to implement diversity management, our paper builds on the existing diversity management studies that stress the role of diversity management committees and diversity management ambassadors (henceforth called diversity ambassadors) or champions (e.g., Omanović, 2006; Subeliani & Tsogas, 2005) for diversity management implementation. Grounded in a 3-years longitudinal study of diversity management practices in a Swedish municipality, we demonstrate in the paper the critical role of organizational contingencies for the implementation of diversity management practices. The structural expressions of discrimination (Holck, 2017) do play a role. But, a structural approach to diversity management implementation does not explain, for example, what is being done in the name of diversity management or why similar ambitions can lead to certain results in some part of the organization and other results in another part. To understand the actual conditions of diversity management implementation one needs to delve into how the diversity ambassadors define what can and should be done, the erratic support that they receive from their hierarchy, the differences in appreciation of outcomes, or the difficulties that diversity ambassadors experience to communicate what they have achieved. There is a considerable distance between diversity management ambitions expressed at top level and the reality of diversity management as experienced on the office floor. To understand how diversity management ideas travel (Czarniawska and Sevón, 2005) in organizations, one needs to stay as close as possible from the intricacies of how diversity management ambitions are in practice turned into an organizational reality. Otherwise, how could one understand why the move from a secondary to a central position within the organization of a HR representative particularly dedicated to diversity management can slow the momentum of local diversity management initiatives? The leading research questions for this paper are hence How is diversity management ambitions turned into practice? and How come the diversity ambassadors in an organization devoted to diversity experience failure when trying to turn ambitions into practice? One way of understanding experienced problems of turning diversity ambitions into practice could be using the analogies of the organization as a market of concerns (Geiger, Harrison, Kjellberg, & Mallard, 2014) where the organization handles competing demands and agendas through decoupling (Meyer & Rowan, 1977) to understand what is going on. We will further this analogy in the paper.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2018
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventEGOS: Surprise in and Around Organizations: Journeys to the Unexpected - Estonian Business School/Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia
Duration: 5 Jul 20187 Jul 2018
Conference number: 34
https://www.egosnet.org/2018_tallinn/general_theme

Conference

ConferenceEGOS
Number34
LocationEstonian Business School/Tallinn University
CountryEstonia
CityTallinn
Period05/07/201807/07/2018
Internet address

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Cite this

Risberg, A., & Corvellec, H. (2018). Diversity Management Implementation and the Market for Organizational Concerns. Paper presented at EGOS, Tallinn, Estonia.