Academic journal article Management Quarterly

Diversity and Its Management: Training Managers for Cultural Competence within the Organization

Academic journal article Management Quarterly

Diversity and Its Management: Training Managers for Cultural Competence within the Organization

Article excerpt

The current literature is replete with statistics, forecast assumptions and predictive scenarios regarding the potential challenges facing business as we approach the twenty-first century. Much of the dialogue centers around competitive advantage, global competition, strategic planning (organizational, financial, human resource, and operational) and improved effective performance.

At the heart of these proposed scenarios is the issue of an evolving, everchanging workforce (Johnston & Packer, 1987). Coupled with the fact that the United States has an aging population, a dwindling labor force and declining youth population, the issue of achieving maximum worker efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction along with management of an increasingly diverse workforce will be powerful factors in whether businesses and corporations not only survive but become world class corporations.

Some organizations have implemented various programs to educate, train and improve productivity of employees in diverse work settings. However, even in cases where the organizations have implemented programs to facilitate cultural awareness, effective utilization of employees and management of diversity, it is frequently observed that core information is still absent among employees regarding what diversity is and is not; along with basic differences of specific ethnic and cultural groups and most important for management executives, a context and framework for understanding the role individual self identify plays in behavior, human development and ultimately motivation for work.

This article will address the management of diversity from the perspective of a broad definitional context, information acquisition and specialized training. The dimensions of diversity are set forth with emphasis on their inextricable separation from each other. These dimensions are a necessary foundation from which to begin. Attention will be given to those euphemisms and implied meanings frequently given to the term diversity, but which tend to confuse rather than clarify issues in the work environment. Finally, some core components for diversity training programs will be offered in an effort to promote an organizational and individual cultural competence for employees in the management setting.


Diversity is a highly complex and multi-faceted concept. Yet frequently when the term is given voice within an organization it is reduced to a simplistic, unidimensional, euphemism for issues such as "minority/majority" interface, the presence of America's so-called "traditional minorities" (African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans), an identified group of social and political isolates within the organization, or in extreme cases diversity takes on a pejorative meaning and is viewed by some as an issue or group to be temporarily tolerated until the next fad appears or the organization regresses to the original status quo.

Such ad hoc and contemporaneous definitions of diversity cannot be the hallmark of businesses seeking a place in the competitive work environment of the current decade nor the next. Diversity as a concept must be understood with all of its complexities vertically and laterally throughout all channels and line relationships within the company or business. Further, such an understanding must carry with it the awareness that the dimensions which comprise diversity cannot be extricated from other dimensions. Figure 1 displays categorical dimensions of diversity which help clarify its complex nature.

In any review of these categories it is important to note that another variable is also operative across these dimensions--that of class or socioeconomic status group (SES). SES is not incorporated into the dimension categories as a specific dimension. It is, however, an issue affecting diversity and certainly has implications for how managers might intervene with employees in terms of educational issues and training for diversity. …

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