Critical Management Studies at Work
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Critical Management Studies at Work

Negotiating Tensions between Theory and Practice

Edited by Julie Wolfram Cox, Tony G. LeTrent-Jones, Maxim Voronov and David Weir

This book is the first of its kind to reflect on what it means to actually perform critical management studies (CMS): how consultants, researchers, teachers and managers negotiate the tensions they experience in their everyday practice.
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Chapter 17: Racial Inequality in the Workplace: How Critical Management Studies Can Inform Current Approaches

Brenda Johnson


Brenda Johnson Many researchers before me (see for example Nkomo 1992) have suggested that a dramatically different perspective on race in organizations must be taken to increase the relevance of organizational research and practice. Nkomo pointed out that ‘Organizations are not race-neutral entities’ (p. 501), and called on organizational scholars to consider alternative paradigms and research questions. More than fifteen years later, many of these questions still need to be addressed. This chapter revisits how racial inequality is addressed in American organizations and suggests some changes to the ways managers and others are educated about racial inequality, and how the issue is managed in organizations. I chose the lens of the critical management studies (CMS) literature because it encompasses alternative paradigms that question current practice and research. This CMS-informed approach to racial inequality will examine the current state of affairs in US organizations and offer some alternative perspectives and possible options beyond diversity training based on my reading of some of the relevant CMS literature. As such, this is not an exhaustive study of all that CMS can add to this topic. Rather it is an exploration by an organizational researcher who is troubled by racial inequality and interested in alternative approaches that may be useful to practitioners who address these issues. First, I present an overview of racial inequality in the US, and the changes in the workplace since legislation required equal opportunities for more US workers. Following this, is a discussion of the backlash against the initiatives intended...

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