Could Communication Form Impact Organizations' Experience with Diversity?
Grimes, Diane Susan, Richard, Orlando C., The Journal of Business Communication
In this paper we argue that cultural diversity can be advantageous or detrimental for organizations depending on organization members' communication. We introduce three forms of communication explored by W. Barnett Pearce, each of which differs in deeply held assumptions. The forms ultimately relate to different ways of being human. We consider the ways that two of the forms, ethnocentric and modernistic, can lead to problems in decision-making and creativity in diverse organizations. We then present cosmopolitan communication, discussing how the form can lead to positive outcomes in diverse organizations, why it works well, and how change agents can encourage communication that draws on this form. We overview the implications of cosmopolitan communication for organizational-level diversity changes and for learning organizations. Given the exploratory nature of the pairing between managing diversity and these three communication forms, extensive suggestions for future research are made.
Organizational environments have become more turbulent in the last 20 or 30 years. Competition is fierce. Organizations need to be nimble to respond to changing conditions. According to one view of organizational diversity, members of diverse decision-making groups have different experiences, values, attitudes, and cognitive approaches (Richard, 2000). These divergent perspectives improve problem solving, decision-making, and creativity (Cox, 1993; Watson, Kumar, & Michaelson, 1993), which, in turn, increases organizational effectiveness for many types of organizations because these skills are especially needed in contemporary environments. An opposing view suggests that demographic diversity within organizations leads to increased problems with communication and coordination, dysfunctional conflict, and a potential for decreased performance (Pelled, Eisenhardt, & Xin, 1999; Tsui & O'Reilly, 1989; Wagner, Pfeffer, & O'Reilly, 1984).
Given these contradictory findings, we propose that the interaction growing out of an organization's predominant communication form may mediate the relationship between diversity and organizational effectiveness. More specifically, we outline the conditions, based on three broad communication perspectives, in which diversity can be detrimental (e.g., coordination problems and dysfunctional conflict) as well as beneficial (e.g., increased creativity, problem-solving and decision-making capability).
The first section introduces several conversations about managing diversity that provide a context for the discussion of communication forms. The second section presents the theoretical framework necessary for understanding ethnocentric, modernistic, and cosmopolitan communication. In Section 3, we build theory concerning the relationships between managing diversity and the communication forms. Section 4 presents theoretical and practical implications, and the final section offers conclusions.
To understand how cosmopolitan communication might lead to increased effectiveness in diverse organizations, it is helpful to overview how diversity and its management have been studied. Managing diversity is one paradigm for thinking about difference in organizations. In the early and mid 1990s, books on the topic addressed theory and research (Cox, 1993), case studies of organizations with managing diversity programs (Fine, 1995), as well as a range of suggested managing diversity programs for organizations (Herriot & Pemberton, 1995; Jamieson & O'Mara, 1991; Loden & Rosener, 1991; Thomas, 1995). The paradigm's primary underlying value is increased organizational effectiveness and profit. As described by R. Roosevelt Thomas (1991), developing each individual's potential is a key goal. However, diversity is not an individual characteristic; it is the mixture of the different characteristics of all of the organization's members. Therefore, diversity involves everyone, decreasing backlash by previously exclude d groups and making all members accountable for diversity-related initiatives (Thomas, 1991). The issues that are the targets of diversity management often include gender, race/ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, class, physical and mental characteristics, language, family issues, departmental diversity, and "alternative lifestyles."
Cox (1993) argued in favor of the "value in diversity" hypothesis, citing studies suggesting that well-trained diverse groups perform better than homogenous ones. Cox's 2001 book updates the hypothesis by listing five ways diversity can add value to an organization. They are: 1) improved problem solving, 2) greater creativity and innovation, 3) increased organizational flexibility, 4) better quality personnel and, 5) improved marketing strategies (p. 6). Other reasons managing diversity came to the fore in the first half of the 1990s included changing U.S. workforce demographic trends (Fine, 1995; Johnston & Packer, 1986), rejection of the practice of assimilation by organizational members who were different (R. Thomas, 1995), and concerns for justice (Cox, 2001).
The managing diversity paradigm emphasizes developing specific skills and changing behavior and policies. Such changes include education and training for individuals; changes in recruitment, retention, and promotion; training in group-work; and long-term changes in organizational culture and systems (Cox, 2001; Fine, 1995; Thomas, 1995). Rather than expecting assimilation or embracing an amalgamation of all groups' values, managing diversity assumes that new ways of working will be developed. Suggestions offered in management practitioners' journals during this time included raising awareness (Kennedy & Everest, 1991; Santora, 1991); accepting difference (Geber, 1990; Laabs, 1993); teaching the dominant culture (Lester, 1995); involving senior management (Colemen, 1990; Rynes & Rosen, 1994); changing the organization so that all are comfortable (Petrini, 1993); monitoring hiring, promotions, and pay (Anderson, 1993; Butler, 1993); complying with legal directives (Wendt & Slonaker, 1993); and using diversity m anagement as an umbrella to include legal solutions and valuing diversity (Baytos, 1992; Overman, 1991).
Given that managing diversity could be seen as a trend that has peaked, why devote further attention to it? First, because it is a crucial issue in U.S. organizational and public life. Marlene Fine (1996, p. 499) argues that "the challenge posed by the increasing cultural diversity of the U.S. workforce is perhaps the most pressing challenge of our times." Cox (2001) notes that "attracting, retaining, and effectively using people are increasingly the top priorities of leaders in all kinds of organizations" (p. 1). Second, managing diversity programs have still not been fully implemented and assessed in organizations (Cox, 2001; Fine, 1995). Third, in spite of the many pages devoted to the topic, diversity issues have not been fully addressed in a useful way. Crucial intervening variables need to be explored at both individual/interpersonal levels (such as communication, which this paper addresses) and organizational/cultural levels (i.e., Ely and D. Thomas' 2001 discussion of diversity perspectives that enhan ce or diminish organizational effectiveness, discussed below). The managing diversity project has also been critiqued for not truly tackling the dilemmas of diversity, including backlash against multiculturalism, and resistance to difference at the organizational level; not inspiring serious academic study of the managing diversity process; for allowing managing diversity to be associated with naively positive descriptions and facile solutions to workplace diversity issues (Prasad & Mills, 1997).
The amount and type of diversity research published in the business communication literature has also been critiqued (Fine, 1996; Limaye, 1994; Zak, 1996).
In a review of diversity research, Fine (1996) argued that "by far the largest number of diversity studies have focused on documenting differences across national cultures" (p. 491).1 Noting that researching international differences is politically safer than researching domestic diversity, she then discussed problems with applying intercultural communication theory to domestic diversity, including the assumption that assimilation to the host culture (in this case, dominant U.S. business culture) should be the goal for diverse organizational members.
Laurie Grobman (1999) also critiqued an exclusive focus on international communication in professional communication instruction, and suggested the inclusion of multiculturalism. However, she seemed to equate multiculturalism with critical and/or social constructionist approaches to writing instruction. While we agree such approaches are important, multiculturalism implies only people of different cultures interacting. That interaction could have a range of implications, from a presumably "colorblind" tolerance to an explicit examination of ideology, power, and resistance. In response to her argument, Patrick Moore (2000) critiqued the social constructionist perspective, and Emily Thrush (2000) called for a consideration of domestic diversity arguing, "we have to stop pretending that the US workforce is a monolithic culture that can be contrasted to the 'others' encountered in doing international business" (p. 84). Also at the theoretical level, Mohan Limaye (1994) argued that diversity paradigms grounded in individual change could not explain change at the organizational level, and that sociological paradigms dealing with intergroup dynamics and dominance were more useful. He suggested sharing power with nontraditional employees as one way to manage diversity. Fine (1996) also concluded that alternative theoretical paradigms were needed and suggested creating discourses that include the voices of all workers.
Business communication articles that have addressed domestic diversity include case studies of a midwestern services company (Hermon, 1996), a statewide public transportation agency (Witherspoon & Wohiert, 1996), and a vehicle maintenance unit of a public transit agency (Zak, 1994). Additional articles suggested that organizations attend to both academic discussions of diversity and team management theory (Schreiber, 1996); use Organizational Readiness models to increase acceptance of diversity programs (Muir, 1996); create communication openness and mentoring programs (Wanguri, 1996); apply four archetypes based on presence of prejudice and interpersonal communication style (Sussman, 1997); and train in nonverbal awareness (Mausehund, Timm, & King, 1995).
The framework presented in the present paper; that is, our adaptation of a model created by communication theorist W. Barnett Pearce (1989), is useful because it addresses the key question asked by those who attempt to manage diversity: How can people from very different groups (in our case, the diverse members of contemporary organizations) work well together? Pearce believes that communication is the primary social process and that we create and recreate our realities, cultures, and identities through it. Communication is not merely a tool for expressing innate thought but a process that shapes what can be thought within a given culture. In other words, reality is socially constructed through communication.
Because the implications of many individual interactions over time influence a given culture and vice versa, Pearce argues that, in different times and places, different ways of being human have been predominant. In other words, "ways of being human" both grow out of and create their own "forms of communication." Like the answer to the famous "chicken and egg" question ("'Which came first?"), neither can be seen as prior; they create each other. Because contemporary times feature rapid change and therefore new ways of interacting, there is the possibility of new forms of communication that must be nourished. These co-exist with a jumbled mix of older forms that reflect interaction patterns better suited to past conditions. Further confusion arises as groups and individuals drawing on these older and newer patterns of interaction (and their associated ways of being human) need to communicate and solve problems together.
Given our unprecedented global interconnections and interdependency, and our lack of success at dealing with problems like widening economic disparities, overpopulation, global warming, AIDS, war, and terrorism, Pearce contends that our current forms of communication and ways of being human are mismatched. Therefore, we must consciously examine our ways of communicating. Pearce is very clear that forms of communication are not abstract and nebulous, but are grounded in actual interaction. For this reason it is possible to talk about these broad forms in more specific terms that might more typically be referred to as "communication styles." Here we will be consistent in using the term "forms" to emphasize the relationship between forms of communication and ways of being human. This section introduces the characteristics of the four communication forms; in the section that follows, we will find that two of them (ethnocentric and modernistic) decrease effectiveness in diverse organizations, while the third (cosm opolitan) allows diverse groups to work together well.
While Pearce (1989) discusses four forms of communication (monocultural, ethnocentric, modernistic, and cosmopolitan), we will summarize and extend his discussion of the latter three. Forms of communication are categorized by whether communicators treat one another as natives and whether communicators' ways of understanding are open to change (see Table 1). Treating others as native means you consider them to be part of your group (however defined) and you judge them by your own group's standards. Treating them as non-native means realizing they are part of a different group, and that they have different criteria for making judgements. You would then find out and use their criteria when communicating with them rather than using your own criteria. Allowing ways of understanding to be open to change means being open to new cultural stories and assumptions, as well as methods of making sense of the world (through stories, assumptions, and methods of sense-making, groups collectively create understandings of thei r reality). Those who do not open their ways of understanding to change will not risk being influenced by others' stories or assumptions.
Monocultural communication posits that everyone is treated as native and ways of understanding are never open to change. We do not consider this form here because it refers to a culture that has literally no knowledge or contact with groups outside its own. As such, it is more of an ideal type or a form in which one might experience "monocultural moments," rather than a form that reflects entire contemporary cultures (Pearce, 1989). Ethnocentric communication depicts those of our group as natives; other groups are seen as non-natives and ways of understanding are not open to change. In modernistic communication, however, everyone is seen as non-native and ways of understanding are always open to change. Cosmopolitan communication treats everyone as both native and non-native, and ways of understanding are open to change yet exempt from change. A consideration of the seeming contradictions within cosmopolitan communication will be more useful after exploring the characteristics of ethnocentric and modernistic communication.
Ethnocentric communicators treat some people as natives and others as non-natives. The natives are the people they consider to be in their own group, that is, those they value and understand. When dealing with natives, ethnocentric communicators do not need to change their understandings. This is so because members of the same group share ways of understanding (i.e., cultural stories and methods of making sense of the world). Ethnocentric communicators can interact with members of their own group without discomfort because their assumptions are not challenged. Ethnocentric communicators are also often comfortable interacting with non-natives. These communicators realize there are groups besides their own whom have different ways of understanding. However, ethnocentric communicators' ways are not open to change with nonnatives because ethnocentric communicators' own ways of understanding strongly emphasize that their ways are best. They usually see their group as superior and other groups as inferior. Both dom inant and nondominant groups may be ethnocentric communicators. Yet, because nondominant groups do not control societal institutions such as the media, the legal system, or business, their ethnocentrism does not have the same impact as the ethnocentrism of dominant groups.
The interpretation of difference suggested by the ideas of "our group" and "others" has a long history in the West. Groups understood as Other are often seen as fundamentally different and therefore deserving of different treatment. The Other is often everything "we" are not, implying that "they" represent negative characteristics we wish we did not have (Miles, 1989; Takaki, 1990). For example, Pittam & Gallois (2000) found that young people from Australia believe dangerous Others are to blame for AIDS. Some othered groups may be stereotyped positively but this is still problematic because it ignores the variation present in all groups. A few of the groups that have been/are considered Other in contemporary U.S. society include women in general (Daly, 1985; Hekman, 1990) and black women (hooks, 1992); African-Americans (Miles, 1989) and Native Americans (Takald, 1990); "Orientals" in general (Said, 1979) and, more specifically, Asian women (Gerster, 1995; Tajima, 1989; Uchida, 1998). O'Barr (1994) argues tha t common images of othered groups suggest appropriate relations between "us" and "them" such as hierarchy, dominance, and subordination.
In an effort to deal with non-natives, ethnocentric communicators develop simplified scripts (Schank & Abelson, 1977) for situations that necessitate interaction. Many people in contemporary culture have scripts for common activities; for example, the activity of "going to a restaurant" unfolds in a particular way, and we can predict what part we need to play in that process. We know that in a certain type of restaurant, we should wait for someone to seat us. We assume she or he will give us a menu, which we should read, so we can order when the server comes to the table. If we had never been to that type of restaurant, we might look for a counter with cash registers and a colorful menu on the wall behind it, or we might pick up money left on our table, not knowing it was a tip for the server. Such scripts are so ingrained that we probably do not remember learning them. For ethnocentric communicators, scripts may function to keep non-natives predictable; scripts also set limits on the interactions of those in volved. One example is business people (and many others) who speak loudly and slowly to those from other countries. Another is "minority" and white women professors being routinely mistaken for support personnel or students (B. Allen, 1995; Jones, 1994). In each case, the script reflects assumptions that the nondominant group member does not need to be taken seriously or engaged intelligently.
In sum, ethnocentric communicators recognize natives and non-natives and their ways of understanding are not open to change. Modernistic communicators, on the other hand, see everyone as non-native and they always open their ways of understanding to change.
To understand how modernistic communicators treat everyone as nonnative and open their ways of understanding to change, it is important to understand the world that modernistic communicators live in and (re)create through their communication patterns. Modernistic communication references our own time, which makes it more difficult to think of this form of communication as just one of several possibilities. Modern times are assumed to be times of progress. The mysteries of nature and humanity are unraveled and eventually everything will be explained by science (Hekman, 1990). Novelty, though extremely perishable, is highly sought after. One only has to look at the fashion, entertainment, or automobile industries to see the appeal of the new. The quintessential modernistic communicator is the entrepreneur who finds life's meaning in creating and celebrating novelty (Pearce, 1989). In this way of communicating, difficulties in understanding are expected. Things are changing so fast-and it is more important to be up-to-date than to be fully understood. For example, using the newest slang, even if all listeners do not understand it, reaps more rewards than speaking directly.
Such interaction is very satisfying for the modernist communicator. These people feel that they are making an important contribution; life is invigorating and they are successful in keeping up with what is new (Pearce, 1989). However, some modernists become disillusioned. They question the long-term worth of what they are doing. These communicators wonder if all change represents progress. They decry the rootlessness and superficial values, as well as the lack of deep connection with others. These modernists can feel that they are running on a treadmill, using their energy but never getting anywhere.
In contrast to modernistic cultures, however, traditional cultures teach all members the values and stories of their group. Members are in close contact; if one member steps out of line, they can be brought back into the fold. Yet, modernistic communicators treat everyone as non-native. Even within one family there may be great differences; siblings may live all across the country (or globe) and may have very different jobs and lifestyles. They may have different assumptions and experiences, and many subjects are taboo at family get-togethers. There is no overarching set of values to which everyone subscribes. Even if a member of a traditional culture does not fully believe in the group's values, the group may have influence or resources to pressure the wayward member into fob lowing traditions. On the other hand, modernistic communicators are atomistic; they do not feel strongly connected to any particular group. This is partly due to the very different life experiences of even close family members, as noted above. Being without a group one considers native also allows ways of understanding to change because no group critiques one for going against long-standing values; there is no shared basis for sense-making.
Finally, ways of understanding are always changing because in contemporary culture conditions are always changing. Attempting to fit in through following the latest trend may reflect modernistic communicators' attempts to gain the attention and acceptance typically gained through relationships and group membership in traditional cultures. In traditional groups, fear of jeopardizing relationships and membership is another reason to follow cultural traditions; modernistic communicators are less interdependent and so feel less pressure. To summarize, modernistic communicators may lead a life ranging from invigorating to meaningless, but they treat everyone as non-native and their ways of understanding are always open to change. Cosmopolitan communicators weave together useful elements from each of the other forms.
Having explained how the relevant factors (native/non-native and ways of understanding open to change or not) influence ethnocentric and modernistic communication, we now turn our attention to the complexities of cosmopolitan communication. Others are treated as both native and nonnative in cosmopolitan communication. Here "others" means everyone, those who would be considered part of our group(s) and those who would not. Each other person is seen as simultaneously native and non-native. Such assumptions are unlike ethnocentric communicators for whom natives and non-natives are never the same people--they belong to different groups. Cosmopolitans treat others as non-native, not with the condescending superiority of ethnocentric communicators, but with appreciation for the genuine differences between different groups. Others are judged by their own standards, "different" is not assumed to mean "inferior," and important group differences are not glossed over.
Cosmopolitan communicators also treat others as native, as being fundamentally like themselves. This process does not refer to an assumption of a common "human nature" but to a common human process-we are born unfinished and become whom we are through cultural learning. The particulars of what we learn are different, as are the particulars of how each culture's learning process works, but the fact of cultural learning is something we have in common. Such an orientation allows us to appreciate our own and others' attachment to cultural stories and assumptions without arguing that our stories are right and others wrong.
While there is no overarching way of judging which group is "best" or whether groups' traditions or practices are right or wrong, people can make those distinctions based on the values of their own culture. In this sense, ways of understanding are not open to change. Unlike ethnocentric communicators who must protect their ways of understanding by denigrating the worth of other groups, cosmopolitan communicators can appreciate others without having to become them (see Lorde, 1984). It is in this sense that they are "exempt from change." Cosmopolitan communicators aspire to "I-thou" relationships rather than "I-it" relations with others (Buber, 1958). Unlike modernistic communicators, whom give up their ways of understanding for the newest fad, cosmopolitan communicators keep their ways of understanding, not because they think they are superior, but because they are theirs. Yet, because they appreciate other groups, these communicators recognize that other groups' ways are precious, and they may, while not giv ing up all of their own understandings, change their ways of understanding when appropriate.
Managing Diversity in the Context of Communication Forms
For each of the forms of communication we now explore the impact on diversity management and organizational effectiveness of treating people as natives or non-natives, and the impact of ways of understanding being open to change or exempt from change.
Ethnocentric Communication: Problematic for Diverse Organizations
Ethnocentric communicators value and understand those in their own groups and feel superior to those in other groups. By using simplified scripts to deal with those they consider non-native, these communicators limit, ignore, or devalue crucial input, thus contributing to dysfunctional conflict. Such an orientation is detrimental to the organization, to the ethnocentric communicator, and to the members considered non-native. Because people with different backgrounds and experiences bring something unique to the table, the very input likely to be ignored would have broadened the range of creative ideas available to the organization. Their own assumptions prevent ethnocentric communicators from recognizing good ideas offered by those they see as non-native, making ethnocentric communicators less valuable as employees and hindering their growth in their position.
Ethnocentric communicators may put limits on what non-natives can contribute. For example, if these communicators draw on stereotypes to assume Asians are only good at math and computers, they may overlook insights that Asian organization members have into communication issues (Grimes, 2002). In addition, non-natives may eventually stop contributing when their ideas are ignored. Perhaps the non-natives might leave the organization or feel insulted because there seems to be no way to become respected members. While these behaviors may decrease the complexity of coordination issues within the organization, they do so to the detriment of overall organizational effectiveness. Beyond their problematic interactions with organizational members, ethnocentric communicators, because their ways of understanding are not open to change, will draw on stereotypes of non-natives in their creation of products/services and in communication with customers/clients and others in the organization's environment. The organization's efforts will therefore not meet the needs of those considered non-native.
Modernistic Communication: Problematic for Diverse Organizations
The situation is more complex with modernistic communicators. Modernistic communicators treat everyone as non-native. Consequently, these communicators do not tend to have strong biases against other groups. However, there are still negative consequences resulting from this communication orientation. One is that modernistic communicators do not expect to be able to communicate well with all the non-natives in their organization (Pearce, 1989). Such beliefs can impede organizational effectiveness because the expectation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Another difficulty is that modernistic communication is based on Western assumptions about progress. This orientation supports an attitude of "out with the old; in with the new" about which modernistic communicators are not fully aware because of their immersion in contemporary times. Traditions are easily discarded and replaced with the newest fad. Such a process does not have an equal impact on all groups in organizations. For example, historically, white immigrants gave up their language and traditions as the second generation grew up to become "typical Americans" (Allen, 1994; Roediger, 1991). People of color, whom at that time, were not allowed to assimilate, held on to their traditions to give them strength to navigate a racist America (Takaki, 1990). Certain groups may have learned that giving up traditions, while painful, had its rewards. Other groups may have learned that giving up traditions did not have the anticipated results or was too great a risk.
Fascination with the most scientific and up-to-date ideas and processes typifies modernistic communication. But when we discuss those who do not want to discard traditions, we do not necessarily refer to people who refuse to use new technologies, who don't keep current in their areas of expertise, or who insist on hanging onto the "good old days" of organizational stability. Instead, we are referring to values and skills that grow out of nondominant cultural traditions, including a more collectivistic work style; valuing experiences, people, and ideas from outside the mainstream; being willing to share an oppositional viewpoint, or valuing people as more than just their job title. Such knowledge (which will not be shared by all nondominant members or only nondominant members) may not be fully appreciated, a lack that may have results similar to ethnocentric communication. Well-meaning modernistic communicators may try to help members who have not given up their cultural traditions "catch up" with the times, t hus alienating them and suppressing alternative perspectives.
Cosmopolitan Communication: Recommended for Diverse Organizations
Cosmopolitan communicators can make important contributions to diverse organizations because they do not ignore differences, but instead, fully recognize, appreciate, and collaborate across them. Similar to those trained in diversity issues, cosmopolitan communicators are well prepared to deal with issues directly related to diversity such as hiring, retaining, and promoting underrepresented groups. However, there are other less tangible and perhaps more important benefits as well. Beyond interaction on "diversity issues," understanding difference helps cosmopolitan communicators in day-to-day interactions because they do not assume everyone is just like them; they can learn from many people. Because their ways of understanding are open to change, those drawing on the cosmopolitan form actively seek out different ideas and ways to think about things. These communicators consider functional conflict a learning opportunity rather than a threat. Such characteristics will improve the quality of thought, performan ce, and decision making (Cox, 1993; Nemeth, 1992), a potential competitive advantage.
Another benefit of cosmopolitan communication is that majority group members may feel less excluded. Numerous social identity theory studies have found that creating out-groups and in-groups can lead to communication problems, social disintegration, and emotional conflict (O'Reilly, Caldwell, & Barnett, 1989; Riordan & Shore, 1997). Acknowledging group memberships and differences may lead some majority group members to feel they are part of a new out-group. Such a negative perception is something akin to ethnocentric communication where the assumption is that any recognition of difference between "your group" and "my group" implies that one group is inferior. However, with cosmopolitan communication, the acknowledgment that people belong to different groups is not perceived negatively. Each group values itself as well as other groups. Rather than trying to prove that different ways are inferior (like ethnocentric communicators) or assuming a lack of ability to coordinate (like modernistic communicators), cosm opolitan communicators encourage a range of discussion on organizational matters. Cosmopolitan communicators recognize that they happened to be born at a certain time and place, in a certain culture, and that is why they believe certain things. These communicators recognize that others are formed in the same way. This orientation makes cosmopolitan communicators more open to all perspectives and less likely to cling stubbornly to their own. However, they do not float freely, first picking up one perspective, then another, as modernistic communicators might do. Cosmopolitan communicators remain moored in their own values, while being open to change when appropriate. We believe that those "living in" the cosmopolitan communication form will have openness to alternative viewpoints, respect for and a desire to include all groups, and open yet grounded interaction style that will trigger the creativity and problem-solving processes that contribute to increased organizational effectiveness.
How to Encourage Cosmopolitan Communication
In this section we imagine how cosmopolitan communication might be encouraged in organizations. We do not envision cosmopolitan communication as a communication style used only in certain situations because the form is connected to deeply held assumptions. Therefore, organizations could not briefly train and then require all organization members to draw upon this form. It would be more likely that organizational leaders, diversity managers, and other change agents would want to first explore the form. Change agents may be insiders or outsiders to the organization whom realize the need for and can help to implement change, ranging from formal consultants to concerned organizational members. Diversity managers may be charged with implementing, and leaders with envisioning needed changes. However, in this case each must be open to a re-imagining of self. Those engaging with the form might then think about how to orient new members and educate existing organizational members over time.
One way to motivate organization members to consider cosmopolitan communication might be to point out the negative implications of ethnocentric and modernistic communication. There is an additional and very practical reason that organizations may want to move away from these problematic forms of communication. Ethnocentric and modernistic communicators expend a large amount of energy and resources to maintain their respective forms of interaction, and these interaction types can be detrimental to performance in contemporary culturally diverse settings. The energy required to accomplish these styles could be better used to reach more laudable organizational goals. For example, ethnocentric communicators spend a lot of time and energy maintaining the part of their assumptions that keep them believing they are superior to others. Modernistic communicators' energy goes into chasing after the latest fad and shoring up Western notions of progress without carefully thinking through the implications of doing so. We b elieve that cosmopolitan communicators have more organizational value because they recognize and deal with complexity more effectively than the other two styles. These communicators are more likely to work intelligently and creatively with others toward specific diversity goals and overall organizational objectives.
Organizations could, without training all organization members in cosmopolitan communication, draw on these distinctions to improve organizational function. This result might occur through recognizing differences between ethnocentric, modernistic, and cosmopolitan communication. Each orientation impacts organizations in different ways; consequently, it would be worthwhile to explore which type(s) predominates in the organization, its various sub-cultures, or particular organizational processes. Because in contemporary times there is a mix of communication forms, recognizing differences in communication that grow out of the forms could also be useful at the group and dyadic levels. If a decision is made to systematically encourage cosmopolitan communication, change agents should realize that this cannot be achieved through a simple workshop or training program. Making the change will require that people become self-aware, aware that there are different forms of communication and aware of the communication for m(s) that they live within. Becoming aware and then working to change the communication form one draws on is a long-term process. Such a change would be difficult for individuals and organizations, but techniques and forums are being developed to encourage that change (Pearce, 1989; 2001; Spano, 2001).
Additional Theoretical and Practical Implications
A consideration of interaction based on the cosmopolitan communication form suggests implications for business communication scholars and practitioners, including important implications for organizational change. Because drawing on Pearce's communication forms to improve managing diversity initiatives and organizational effectiveness is a new endeavor, there are also many interesting future research possibilities, both empirical and theoretical.
Learning to Learn
Cosmopolitan communication is not only appropriate for brainstorming new ideas, for thinking about how to deal with a diverse client base, or for "typical" diversity initiatives but is relevant (perhaps even more so) as organizations "learn to learn" (Morgan, 1997). In Morgan's discussion of organizational learning, the goal in "single-loop" learning is to monitor and reduce error within a given set of the operating norms. An example of this approach might be monitoring and improving retention of nondominant group members within the parameters of a hiring, promotion, and retention diversity initiative. "Double-loop" learning, on the other hand, questions the operating norms in the interest of improved organizational functioning. An example would be questioning the retention initiative and asking how the organization can encourage nondominant members to impact the core values and processes of the organization. While this type of involvement and respect of nondominant group members would no doubt lead to impro ved retention, it might also change the operating norms and expectations of the organization. Especially relevant in environments and organizations that are undergoing change, learning to learn requires organizational members who can step back, reexamine, and possibly modify deeply held organizational assumptions, patterns, and rules (Senge, 1990). Such an orientation is difficult for members who are comfortable with the status quo. Learning to learn also highlights a danger in expecting nondominant group members to assimilate to current organizational norms. Perspectives that would help the organization improve would be suppressed. However, those communicators who enact a more cosmopolitan style have the skills and the motivation to question organizational assumptions and to support others in doing so.
Meanwhile (and even if every organization member were magically to become a cosmopolitan communicator), cosmopolitan communication needs to be used in conjunction with other managing diversity initiatives. Just as research suggests that institutional racism can thrive even as individual organizational members become less racist (Cox, 2001; Fine, 1995), drawing on the cosmopolitan form will not automatically lead to changes at the systemic level. However, there is excellent work on diversity that does in fact address the organizational level. Like the present article, Robin Ely and David Thomas (e.g., Ely & Thomas, 2001; Thomas & Ely, 1996) address variables that intervene in the diversity-to-organizational-effectiveness relationship. These researchers theorize three perspectives on diversity, one in which diverse members are recruited for legal or fairness reasons arid expected to assimilate, and a second, in which diverse members are recruited to work only with niche markets of which they are members. In th e third, called the integration-and-learning perspective, nondominant group members may also be recruited for reasons of fairness and/or to reach new markets. However, these organizations come to "incorporate employees' perspectives into the main work of the organization and ... enhance work by rethinking primary tasks and redefining markets, products, strategies, missions, business practices, and even cultures" (Thomas & Ely, 1996, emphasis in original). In other words, nondominant group members help their organizations learn to learn (Morgan, 1997).
Ely and Thomas (1966) do not fully explain how key leaders develop the integration-and-learning perspective, but interaction based on the cosmopolitan communication form suggests how such a transformation might occur. The learning-and-integration perspective illustrates one way that an organization that values cosmopolitan communication might make changes at the organizational level. Combining knowledge of the cosmopolitan communication form with the integration-and-learning diversity perspective could strengthen organizations' diversity efforts. The combination could also enhance theorizing about learning organizations, as well as research on managing diversity.
Future Research and Conclusion
Because we are suggesting connections between areas of research that have not been linked before, we have no doubt created many more questions than answers. Fertile areas for future research might include, but would certainly not be limited to the following list of questions. First how could diversity programs be created that include consideration of the communication forms as they play out in day-to-day interaction? Second, how would ethnocentric, modernistic, and cosmopolitan communicators impact organizational diversity initiatives, and ultimately, organizational effectiveness? Third, how could communication drawing on each of the three communication forms be reliably identified? Fourth, how would ethnocentric, modernistic, and cosmopolitan communication forms relate with Thomas and Ely's (1996; Ely & D. Thomas, 2001) perspectives on diversity? Fifth, how could the relationship between learning organizations and diversity, especially between learning organizations and the cosmopolitan communication form a nd between learning organizations and the integration-and-learning diversity perspective, be explored? Sixth, since we know that heterogeneous groups that came to outperform homogeneous groups in innovation and problem solving were trained in small group communication (Cox, 2001), how would such training impact ethnocentric, modernistic, and cosmopolitan communicators in diverse organizations? Seventh, what would be the impact on diverse organizations of training in small group communication versus providing information about the communication forms? Finally, how would important individual differences like learning style or identity development stage, relate to the communication forms? How would they, in various combinations, impact diverse organizations?
In the present article we have attempted to answer Fine's (1996) call for alternative theoretical perspectives and the transformation of organizations. We have presented the creative joining of two areas of study; that is, Pearce's (1989) exploration of communication forms and diversity management. The article also fits with Fine's second category of research on diversity insofar as we offer theoretical perspectives and directions for future research. While it does not directly explore the voices of nondominant organizational members (Fine, 1991, 1996), our emphasis on cosmopolitan communication offers a process that would allow for these organizational member's voices, concerns and ideas to be more clearly heard. Like Limaye (1994), we have noted that individual change, though crucial, alone cannot transform organizations. The sharing of power and system level change recommended by Limaye could be realized by a combination of cosmopolitan communication and the learning-and-integration perspective on diversi ty we have presented in this article. Moreover, similar to Schreiber (1996), this article has also explored the need to go beyond individual change, share power, value differences, change communication patterns, resist assimilation and conformity, and include the "other." We concur with Wanguri (1996) that communication (her recommendation is communication openness) is crucial to organizational success, and posit that the discussion of ethnocentric and modernistic communication points to reasons for the difficulty in achieving openness. Additionally, we believe that cosmopolitan communication offers a method for arriving at communication openness.
Cosmopolitan communication is a seemingly complex and contradictory form. However, treating people as both native and nonnative, and having ways of understanding open to change yet exempt from change, is the form of communication we recommend to produce and sustain a diversity advantage. Organizational members who enact the cosmopolitan style will likely be more creative, culturally sensitive, grounded, group-oriented, and aware of often hidden assumptions.
Table 1 Forms of Communication: Treatment of Ways of Understanding and Others Ways of understanding Ways of understanding not open to change open to change Treat others Monocultural Cosmopolitan as natives Communication Communication (Treat others as native and non-native. Ways of under- standing open to change, yet exempt from change) Treat others Ethnocentric Modernistic as non-natives Communication Communication (Treat own group (Treat everyone as natives) as non-natives)
(1.) One problem is that terms such as diversity, multicultural communication, and intercultural communication are not used in consistent ways. For example, in the business communication literature, the terms "diversity" and "multicultural communication" sometimes refer to communication between people from two different countries (Sharp, 1995; Tovey, 1997). Typically diversity refers to differences in race/ethnicity (and the other differences noted above) within one national culture (however, Tovey uses the term intracultural communication for this situation). Intercultural communication (at least historically in the discipline of communication) refers to the sub-discipline that considers communication between people from different countries. Unambiguous terminology, perhaps international rather than intercultural communication, and domestic diversity rather than diversity, would help each area be considered in its own right.
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Diane Susan Grimes (Ph.D., Purdue University, 1996) is Assistant Professor in the Department of Speech Communication at Syracuse University. Orlando C. Richard (Ph.D., University of Kentucky, 1997) is Assistant Professor of Management in the School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas. The authors would like to thank Arthur Jensen, Jean Ramsey and the anonymous reviewers for their careful readings and helpful advice. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Diane Grimes, Department of Speech Communication, 100 Sims Hall, Syracuse University, Syracuse NY 13244; e-mail: email@example.com…
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Publication information: Article title: Could Communication Form Impact Organizations' Experience with Diversity?. Contributors: Grimes, Diane Susan - Author, Richard, Orlando C. - Author. Journal title: The Journal of Business Communication. Volume: 40. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 2003. Page number: 7+. © 2008 Association for Business Communication. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.