Chapter 7: Contextualizing Diversity Management
7. Contextualising diversity management Jawad Syed INTRODUCTION The discourse of managing diversity originated in the USA and has generally been adopted across Western countries such as the UK, Canada and Australia (Agocs and Burr, 1996; Jain and Verma, 1996; Teicher and Spearitt, 1996; Liff, 1997; Syed, 2008). The discourse is predominantly shaped by the demographic, socio-cultural and economic realities in the USA and other Western contexts. Accordingly, there are concerns that a US-centric approach may not hold well for diversity management in other national contexts (Jones et al., 2000; Syed, 2008). Transplanting human resource practices from one cultural context to the other has been proved counterproductive by the experiences of many multinational firms (Ouchi, 1981) but it does not suggest that one society cannot learn from another. The transfer of learning across borders, however, calls for ‘prudence and judgment’ (Hofstede, 2001: 375). Each culture has its own unique set of realities. The discourse and assumptions underlying a US-based approach obscure important local diversity issues. Some scholars such as Jones et al. (2000) suggest that ‘a multi-voiced discourse of diversity’ that challenges the universalistic notion of diversity at both the national and organisational level is required. Hofstede (2001) has discussed at length the pitfalls of following a management discourse that fails to account for local realities. He remarks that ideas and theories ‘about management and organisation are often exported to other countries without regard for the values context in which these ideas were developed’ (p. 374). Expanding on this topic further,...
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