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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

Workforce America! by Marilyn Loden and Judy B. Rosener

I finished this book in April 2022. I recommend this book 8/10.

It was really interesting to read a book on employee diversity that is 31 years old. It made me think that it would be somewhat outdated; we have come so far, and so much has changed, but it is not true—This book was a great intro for me to this important topic.

Get your copy here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • Diversity listed in alphabetical order:

    • Age

    • Ethnicity

    • Gender

    • Physical abilities/qualities

    • Race

    • Sexual/affectional orientation

  • Secondary dimensions of diversity:

    • Educational background

    • Geographic location

    • Income

    • Marital status

    • Military experience

    • Parental status

    • Religious beliefs

    • Work experience

  • When a company president uses sport and military analogies repeatedly in a speech at the annual shareholders' meeting, it is the maverick who is likely to suggest that other metaphors might be more appropriate—given the fact that many women are not comfortable with such references. When an ethnic, homophobic, racist, or ageist joke is told during a coffee break, it is the maverick who will object. When there is a gossip circulating throughout the office about a woman "sleeping her way to the top," it is the maverick who is questions the accuracy of the rumor. And each time this occurs, it is the maverick who will be accused of having no sense of humor or of being overly sensitive.

  • Instead of developing and rewarding managers who are competent to hire, coach, and evaluate diverse employees, organizations are insisting that nothing very significant has changed within the workforce. They continue to assert that the old ways that worked with a more homogeneous workforce will continue to work today.

  • Cultural myopia—the belief that one's particular culture is appropriate in all situations and relevant to all others. Cultural myopia tends to be more prevalent among those who are most comfortable in and committed to the traditional culture. The more connected an individual is to the dominant group's values, the greater the probability of cultural myopia. While cultural myopia makes it far more difficult for individuals to clearly see multicultural issues, this condition can be corrected. The first step is acknowledging the problem. Once the problem of cultural myopia is recognized, managers can do much to reduce its negative impact. In particular, they can embark on an educational effort aimed at increasing their own awareness of:

    • Barriers that assimilation creates as strategy for managing employee diversity.

    • Specific multicultural issues that exist within their organization.

    • Impacts of these issues on diverse and mainstream employees.

  • Generally, people wishing to minimize collusion in their work group relationships follow these three steps in addressing this problem.

    • They seek assistance from other group members in identifying their own patterns of collusive behavior.

    • Initially, they modify their behavior in relationships where there is maximum potential for success and minimal potential for irreparable damage—recognizing that it is often easier to try new behaviors in low-risk situations.

    • They introduce the formal concept of collusion and enlist the help of others in pointing out destructive dynamics operating within the work group.

  • Important initiatives within organizations:

    • Acknowledging the limitations of assimilation as a strategy of managing employee diversity.

    • Adopting the philosophy of valuing diversity and encouraging greater employee differentiation.

    • Increasing employee awareness of cultural differences and similarities.

    • Leveraging differences for improved productivity, enhanced customer relations, and increased profit.

    • Redefining relationships between others and members of the dominant group

    • Developing collaborative alliances based on cultural similarities and differences, common needs, and interests.

    • Reducing cultural bias in performance standards.

    • Aligning organizational objectives with the emerging culture of diversity.

  • Common organizational assumptions:

    • Employee diversity is a competitive advantage

    • The organization is in transition

    • Change the culture, not the people

  • "Like portfolios, organizations benefit from diversity. Effective leaders resist the urge to people their staff with others who look or sound or think just like themselves...They look for good people from many molds, and then they encourage them to speak out, even disagree."~Warren G. Bennis

  • Pluralistic leadership goes beyond participative leadership. While it also emphasizes empowerment and employee involvement, it assumes that the organization's culture needs to change if diversity is to become a true asset. This culture change must be a collaborative process involving others as well as those in the mainstream. At the center of this change is the leader—inspiring commitment among others through personal and organizational proaction.

  • Six dimensions are essential for effective leadership in diverse organizations:

    • Vision and values that recognize and support diversity within the organization.

    • Ethical commitment to fairness and the elimination of all types of workplace discrimination.

    • Broad knowledge and awareness regarding the primary and secondary dimensions of diversity and multicultural issues.

    • Openness to change based on diverse inputs and feedback about personal filters and blind spots.

    • Mentor and empowerer of diverse employees

  • James E. Preston, president, and chief operating officer of Avon Products, is a leader of a diverse organization who appreciates the subtleties of language. For example, while he acknowledges that women can learn to speak "Militarese" and "Sportspeak," he is not reluctant to as the key question: "But...why should they have to?" Preston is also aware of the importance of culture change to support diversity in the American workplace. Recognizing that most institutions have been "described and imprinted by white males," he thinks it is not surprising that others "have difficulty over the years in adapting to the climates that exist in these businesses."

  • As mentors and empowerers, pluralistic leaders are perceived by employees to be more creative when it comes to spotlighting the talents of others. As such, they do not simply wait for opportunities to present themselves or operate through "normal channels." Pluralistic leaders seek out or create unique opportunities that actualize the potential of others. These opportunities take a variety of forms, from task force assignments and high-visibility presentations to new job opportunities that are created for talented others, not simply filled by them.

  • To set the stage for culture change, organizational leaders must take an early, active, and visible role. In particular, their role must focus on:

    • Acknowledge the fundamental difference between equal employment opportunity and valuing diversity.

    • Endorsing the value of diversity and communicating this throughout the organization.

    • Articulating a pluralistic vision.

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