Making Managing Diversity Visible: A Phenomenographic Approach

Jane O'Leary (2010). Making Managing Diversity Visible: A Phenomenographic Approach PhD Thesis, UQ Business School, The University of Queensland.

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Author Jane O'Leary
Thesis Title Making Managing Diversity Visible: A Phenomenographic Approach
School, Centre or Institute UQ Business School
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-12
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Associate Professor Jörgen Sandberg
Dr Oluremi Ayoko
Total pages 266
Total colour pages 5
Total black and white pages 261
Subjects 15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Abstract/Summary Considerable attention has been given to the notion of managing diversity in industry and academic circles. Organisations have invested substantial resources in developing their staff‟s abilities in this area, drawing on a multi-billion dollar diversity education industry (Hansen, 2003; Lubove, 1997), countless „how to‟ guidelines (Ivancevich & Gilbert, 2000) and a burgeoning number of diversity-related studies (Edelman, Fuller, & Mara-Drita, 2001). Despite this, people continue to struggle to effectively manage diversity. Numerous reports and studies have raised concerns in this regard and highlighted the need to improve practice in this area (e.g. D'Netto & So'hal, 1999; Diversity Council Australia, 2008, 2010; Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1999, 2000, 2004a, 2005; Industry Task Force on Leadership and Management Skills, 1995; Murray & Syed, 2005; Reyes, 2005). Given the myriad of studies and „how to‟ guidelines, and the significant investment being made by organisations, the question arises, why are people still struggling to manage diversity? One explanation is that we still know little about the actual practice of managing diversity. To-date the literature has been remiss in this area, offering a plethora of suggestions for „best practice‟ or „effective‟ practice that do little to make visible actual practice − that is, how people manage diversity, including the varying ways they do this. Added to this, the rationalistic assumptions underpinning much of the literature have generated attribute-based descriptions and explanations of managing diversity practice, which overlook the central role people‟s understanding of their work plays in shaping their practice (Dall'Alba, 2004; Sandberg, 1994, 2000a; Sandberg & Dall'Alba, 2006). This study investigates the practice of managing diversity, making visible what people in organisations do when managing diversity and the varying ways they do this. It utilises an interpretive research methodology called phenomenography to capture the practice of managing diversity in the form of the varying ways people in Australian organisations understand and practise managing diversity. The core research question guiding this investigation is: What different ways of understanding and practising managing diversity can be identified amongst managers in Australian organisations? The empirical material was obtained through in-depth interviews and participant observation of managers in two professional services firms. This study identified four qualitatively different understandings of managing diversity: (1) Colour Blind − understand managing diversity as colour blind individualism; (2) Melting Pot − understand managing diversity as assimilation; (3) Multicultural − understand managing diversity as inclusion; and (4) Equal Footing − understand managing diversity as generating substantive equality. These understandings are hierarchically related to each other, such that the meaning of managing diversity for a Colour Blind understanding is built on and expanded in a Melting Pot understanding, which in turn is built on and expanded in a Multicultural understanding, and so on. This study also identified that, in addition to these four understandings of managing diversity forming part of the practice of managing diversity, so too do four key activities, these being sourcing, interacting at work, organising work and developing careers. These activities are interpreted and practised in different ways depending upon a person‟s particular understanding of managing diversity. In an effort to more deeply comprehend the practice of managing diversity this study‟s main research question was extended to also consider: How can we explain these different ways of understanding and practising managing diversity? This question was explored through considering a micro-level explanation in the form of participants‟ specific biographies and a macro-level explanation in the form of societal discourse participants may have been exposed to when managing diversity. These potential explanations were selected as recent interpretive research suggests they may play a role in explaining people‟s different understandings of managing diversity (e.g. Boxenbaum, 2006; Jones, 2004; Kalonaityte, 2010; Kamp & Hagedorn-Rasmussen, 2004; Kirton, Greene, & Dean, 2007). This supplementary analysis found that discourses of managing diversity embedded in the societal context in which participants work and live may help explain the varying ways of understanding managing diversity identified in this study, as high degrees of alignment were apparent between each understanding of managing diversity and specific emphases in societal discourse of managing diversity. Additionally, this analysis suggested that participants‟ biographical characteristics − specifically their level of diversity involvement − may have influenced the societal discourse they access when constructing their understanding of managing diversity. This study‟s findings form the basis of an emergent theory of managing diversity practice, which is premised on the varying ways managers understand managing diversity. This theory advances the field by describing and explaining actual practice rather than only suggestions for practice, and it does so in a more comprehensive and accurate manner than prevailing attribute-based approaches. In doing so, the findings provide a foundation from which to consider the development of practice, including clarifying what it is we should be seeking to develop in people and how we can best design and deliver diversity educational initiatives to this end.
Keyword Managing diversity
Understanding-based theory
Additional Notes COLOUR: 27, 85, 151, 167, 174 LANDSCAPE: 41, 85, 109, 121, 135, 149, 156, 159, 162, 165, 167, 171, 184, 190, 195, 201, 212, 216

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Created: Thu, 26 May 2011, 17:08:43 EST by Ms Jane O'leary on behalf of Library - Information Access Service