A Research Companion
Edited by Mustafa F. Özbiligin
Chapter 24: Putting Words in Our Mouths: Diversity Training as Heteroglossic Organisational Spaces
Elaine Swan INTRODUCTION Diversity management in the workplace have been increasingly examined in organisation studies in the past 10 years (see for example, Prasad and Mills, 1997; Kirton and Greene, 2000; Lorbiecki, 2001; Ahmed et al., 2006; Konrad et al., 2006). Diversity training, however, although a quintessential intervention in diversity management, has been much less theorised and researched by organisational theorists. There is some academic literature on equal opportunities training and anti-racist training from the 1980s, but this dates before the new equalities regime in the UK and the turn to diversity in the UK (see, for example, MacDonald et al., 1989; Brown and Lawton, 1991). Maybe on reflection this relative lack of attention is not so surprising: so-called ‘soft skills’ training per se is often denigrated by managers and academics on a range of counts. In fact, diversity training is even more likely to generate hostile reactions from managers, staff and academics than traditional soft skills training. This is for a range of reasons. Some of it is the ‘heat and noise’ that still emanates from people’s experiences or myths of the 1980s race awareness training run by local authorities and public bodies in the UK (Brown and Lawton, 1991). Critiqued by left and right, by white recipients and black activists, this form of training was seen by many to lead to cynical ‘white breast beating and learning the right rhetoric’ (Gaine, 1995: 128). Its particular pedagogical style of experiential learning and confrontation was seen as a ‘perverse lust...
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