Multicultural Organization Competence through Deliberative Dialogue

Article excerpt


Organizations and institutional life are conflicted with hostility, discrimination, discord and tension resulting from the inability to be inclusive and respectful of human differences. The critical question is why is it so hard for different types of people to work together and to be productive? The nature of the problem is couched in society's rampant power differential, the stereotypes and the isms of racism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, and ableism and other identified elements that dominant organization structures. Deliberative Organization Development purports the use of "deliberative dialogue" groups, within organizations. Dialogue groups facilitate the building of authentic relationships among diverse populations and move the organization toward multicultural competence, which is an organization that works to construct parity and include diverse cultures in operations, policies, and practices.

Organization and institutional life in the United States is conflicted with hostility, discrimination, discord and tension resulting from the inability to manage and respect human differences. The critical question is, Why is it so difficult for different types of people to work together and be productive? No other country on earth is as multiracial and multicultural as the U.S. (Reece & Brandt, 2002).

This country has a kaleidoscope of world cultures and ethnic groups; therefore, it is imperative for organizations and businesses to adjust to the changing demographics. It is also critical for organizations to understand that with the increasing demands of international business and globalization, the practice of multicultural competence is essential. The foreign-born population in America now number about 30 million people and is projected to increase exponentially (Reece & Brandt, 2002). Such diversity in the work force represents the country's greatest challenge as well as its greatest asset (Thomas, 1991).

The nature of the problem is couched in society's rampant human oppression, power differential (Delpit, 1995), the stereotypes and the "isms" (racism, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism, etc.) that dominate organization structures. Oppression is a human condition that hurts everyone; it hurts those who are targets of oppression more directly and with greater intensity. Institutional oppression is a set of policies, priorities, and accepted normative patterns designed to subjugate, and force dependence of individuals and groups to comply with traditional mainstream values and practices. It does this by sanctioning goals, unequal status, and unequal goods and services (Reevaluation Counseling, 1995). Institutional racism is the disproportionately negative effect of limiting racial minorities' access to quality resources, goods, services and opportunities through the policies, practices or behaviors of institutions, businesses, organizations or governments; intent is irrelevant. (Randell, 2003).

In the past, U.S. organizations attempted to assimilate everyone into one "American" way of doing things. The trend now is to value diversity, which means appreciating everyone's uniqueness, respecting his or her differences, and encouraging every worker to make his or her full contribution to the organization (Reece & Brandt, 2002). The "business results" school, professed by Roosevelt Thomas's (1991) model of managing diversity, focuses on the impact that structural and cultural change can have on an organization's economic viability. Proponents say, in effect, "Embrace the differences among people, and you can fix the organization's problems."

A multicultural organization that demonstrates competence in this structural dynamic is genuinely committed (behavior as well as interaction) to diverse representation throughout the organization and at all levels. It is sensitive to maintaining an open, supportive, and responsive environment. The organization works to include diverse cultures in operations, and organization policies and practices are carefully linked to the goals of multiculturalism. …