Understanding Diversity Managers' Role in Organizational Change: Towards a Conceptual Framework

By Tatli, Ahu; Özbilgin, Mustafa F | Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, September 2009 | Go to article overview

Understanding Diversity Managers' Role in Organizational Change: Towards a Conceptual Framework


Tatli, Ahu; Özbilgin, Mustafa F, Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences


Abstract

The paper presents a conceptual framework charting the agency of diversity managers in organizational change. Evaluating and critiquing the contemporary models of organizational change management, we identify three concepts, which are situatedness, relationality, and praxis, for understanding the diversity managers' agency in the organizational change process. Each orienting concept is explored in the context of current diversity management literature and their combined explanatory power is discussed. Copyright © 2009 ASAC. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

JEL Classification: M00

Keywords: diversity management, change agency, situated, relational, praxis

Résumé

Cet article présente un cadre conceptuel qui décrit l'agence des gestionnaires de la diversité dans le cadre du changement organisationnel. Après avoir proposé une évaluation critique des modèles contemporains du changement organisationnel, l'article propose, pour mieux cerner la notion d'agence des gestionnaires de la diversité dans le processus de changement organisationnel, trois concepts opératoires à savoir la situationalité, la relationalité et la praxis. Chaque concept opératoire est examiné par rapport aux publications contemporaines sur la gestion de la diversité. La puissance explicative de chaque concept est également analysée. Copyright © 2009 ASAC. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Mots-clés : gestion du diversité, agence du changement, situe, relatíonelle, praxis

Diversity management has emerged as a popular management philosophy of recognizing and valuing het- erogeneity with a view to improving organizational per- formance in the workplace (Cassell & Biswas, 2000; Kandola & Fullerton, 1994). Despite the increasing amount of management research on the issue, diversity managers as agents of organizational change have remained a largely neglected topic of research. Due to their professed role in the design and implementation of diversity management policies and programs, diversity managers are the most visible actors in the process of managing diversity. In this paper, we seek to understand the agency of diversity managers in organizational change and, in other words, to provide insight to the question: "can diversity managers engender the organi- zational change which they envision?" We examine the role and impact of diversity managers as organizational change agents and individuals who assume the leading roles in coordinating organizational change interventions. We turn to the literature on change agents and diversity managers with a view to offering a threedimensional analytical framework of situatedness, relationality, and praxis, situating the agency of diversity managers within the relational scope of organizational change as triggered by either diversity management policies, programs, or the diversity managers themselves.

The diversity management process is often associated with organizational change in the academic literature (Dobbs, 1996; Gilbert & Ivancevich, 2000; Liff, 1996; Mighty, 1991). However, in practice there is variation in terms of the extent to which organizational diversity approaches incorporate the promised forms of inclusiveness or indeed achieve the level of effectiveness that is sufficient to initiate organizational change (D ' Netto & Sohal, 1999; Kalev, KeUy, & Dobbin, 2006). There can be a spectrum of roles afforded to diversity managers based on organizations' different approaches to equality and diversity, which can range from rejection of any concerns, to legal compliance, and to more sophisticated diversity management perspectives (Cox, 1991). Not surprisingly, the role of diversity manager, as change agents may also vary from transactional to transformational, or it may be devolved to the level of line management, centralized in a unit, or assumed by a single person.

We focus on the agency of diversity managers who assume the leading role in the strategy making, design, delivery, implementation, and monitoring of diversity initiatives, which affect organizational change. …

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