Re-Conceptualizing Diversity Management: Organization-Serving, Justice-Oriented, or Both?

Re-Conceptualizing Diversity Management: Organization-Serving, Justice-Oriented, or Both?

Marilyn Y. Byrd, Claretha Hughes
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 36
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4745-8.ch002
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This chapter highlights how diversity management, a widely practiced management philosophy, has emerged from an original focus of equal opportunity and representation to a focus on a strategic and competitive business opportunity for organizations. However, the adverse, lived experiences that socially marginalized people experience are concealed within business goals despite having their “difference” marketed as a competitive advantage. The aim of this chapter is to conceptualize diversity management as having mutually inclusive, intersecting goals rather than mutually exclusive, competing goals.
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Diversity management is a widely practiced management philosophy but in praxis, it is a relatively ill-defined, ambiguous term (Foster & Harris, 2005). In the academic community, scholars have contributed various perspectives of diversity management that have positioned the concept as an organization-serving philosophy that is in direct opposition to safeguarding and protecting the socially marginalized workforce from unjust and uncivil treatment. Socially marginalized refers to a state of reality that exists for some groups of people whom society has categorized as not being the standard by which society recognizes as being the accepted norm (Byrd, 2018); and as result impacts the everyday, lived experiences of the work environment.

Lived experiences can produce incidents, episodes, and events that socially marginalized people endure and interpret as being demeaning, demoralizing, disrespectful, and prejudicial to their image in the workplace. Consequently, these experiences can be detrimental to self-esteem, self-worth, job satisfaction, and job performance which are all variables that can be career altering and impact career satisfaction.

Lived experiences can occur in any context that an individual performs meaningful work. These types of behaviors and incidents are often perceived as being directly related to an individual’s social location (race, sex, age, ability, religion, or other similarly social constructed categories). Therefore, a necessary function and goal for diversity management is recognizing demoralizing behaviors and taking the appropriate steps to expose, correct, and eliminate the source(s) of the behavior. Problematic is that a business opportunity case for diversity fails to capture the everyday, lived experiences of socially marginalized members of the workforce.

As a derivative of the management process, the idea of diversity management or managing diversity underscores the socially constructed meanings of who is categorized as being diverse and incorporates a business rationale that is often antagonistic and sometimes inimical to genuine equality and diversity concerns (Gotsis & Kortezi, 2015). Combining the term diversity with management conjures up the image of historical realities of dominance and subjugation. In this sense, diversity management is a continuance of power over. Furthermore, given the managerial inclination towards control, order, and regulation, the ambition and practices of managing diversity contradict the stated goals and result in less, rather than a more diverse (which is understood to be heterogeneous), pluralistic and varied organization (Risberg & Just, 2015).

In this chapter, two dichotomies of diversity management are highlighted: promoting diversity as a strategic business opportunity to gain a competitive advantage and operationalizing diversity management principles that respond to the lived experiences of socially marginalized groups. The lived experiences of socially marginalized people is a relatively unexplored area of diversity management. Moreover, the ethical, moral, and social obligations of diversity management have received scant attention. In bringing to light this omission, another goal of this chapter recognizes social justice as a necessary outcome of diversity management.

The objectives of this chapter are to:

  • 1.

    Explain the influencing rhetoric of diversity in the evolution of diversity management;

  • 2.

    Discuss philosophical assumptions of diversity management;

  • 3.

    Discuss the dichotomized views of business opportunity and a justice-based perspective;

  • 4.

    Recognize foundational models, worldviews, approaches, and contexts for applying diversity management;

  • 5.

    Discuss criticisms that have challenged the application of diversity management;

  • 6.

    Explore social injustice as a less recognized concept associated with diversity;

  • 7.

    Present theoretical foundations fruitful for bridging the gap in diversity management studies; and

  • 8.

    Discuss future research directions for achieving business goals and justice-based outcomes.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Diversity Intelligence: The capability of leaders and followers to value all employees and their contributions despite differences based on protected class status.

Lived Experiences: Refers to incidents, episodes, events, and first-hand accounts that socially marginalized people endure and interpret as being demeaning, demoralizing, disrespectful, and prejudicial to their image in the workplace.

Occupational Segregation: The grouping or categorizing of minoritized populations into domestic, service, or undervalued work roles (Solomon, Maxwell, & Castro, 2019 AU49: The in-text citation "Solomon, Maxwell, & Castro, 2019" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Presumed Incompetent: Perception that an individual’s work is less superior because of their social affiliation and the assumption that they are placed in prestigious or high-profile jobs because of affirmative action.

Diversity Management: Management philosophy that includes “an understanding of the sociopolitical and historical realities of discrimination and oppression; knowledge of how organizations and systems work, and how they can change; competence and experience in helping adults learn; and personal understanding of one’s self in relation to others, especially across differences of race, gender, sexual orientation, and ability” ( Cross, 2000 , p. 140).

Ethics of Rights: Based on the principle that every individual has basic fundamental rights and as such have the right to make their own choices.

Ethics of Care: Moral problems are problems of human relations…relational ethic transcends the age-old opposition between selfishness and selflessness, which have been the staples of moral discourse. The search on the part of many people for a voice which transcends these false dichotomies represents an attempt to turn the tide of moral discussion from questions of how to achieve objectivity and detachment to how to engage responsively and with care (Gilligan, 1983 AU48: The in-text citation "Gilligan, 1983" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. , p. xix).

Inclusion: The degree to which the sense of being an outsider looking in does not exist ( Pelled, Ledford, & Mohrman, 1999 ).

Diversity Social Climate: Organizational culture supported by management’s proactive stance against social injustice.

Ethics of Virtue: Considers the personal traits, qualities, and values that cause a person to act in a certain way. From this perspective, the good values that a person prescribes to that cause them to act in a way that is good as opposed to vices that cause that person to act in a way that is not, play a critical role in decision-making.

Socially Marginalized: Individuals who are subjected to unequal (and often unjust) treatment based on their social location without considering their individual knowledge, skills, and abilities ( Byrd, 2018 AU50: The citation "Byrd, 2018" matches multiple references. Please add letters (e.g. "Smith 2000a"), or additional authors to the citation, to uniquely match references and citations. ).

Ethics of Justice: Asks the moral question, “How fair is this action? Does it treat everyone in the same way, or does it show favoritism and discrimination?” ( Velasquez et al., 1996 , p. 3).

Hostile Work Environment: Occurs when unwelcome comments or conduct based on sex, race or other legally protected characteristics unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

Social Injustice: A violation of one’s civil rights that could inhibit the ability to realize full potential and ultimately impede one’s career success.

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