Framing Multiple Others Managing Global Diversity Commerce Essay

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Ongoing globalization has dramatically transformed human society. Increasing global interdependence and interconnectedness, which are more salient in, but not confined to, the spheres of economy and business, demand that many organizations working at domestic and/or international level meet the challenge of rethinking the ways they operate.

One of major effects of globalization, which currently challenges organizations, is rapidly changing demographics of the workplace. These challenges refer not only the growing diversity among employees, but also change the perceptions of leadership, since many contemporary state leaders come from various ethnic or race backgrounds (Barak Obama, Nikolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel).

The multicultural diverse global environment calls for new approaches to diversity and inclusion issues. A broader understanding of global diversity implies understanding of differences between countries, and cultural variables within a single country, which are essential for business success. Understanding of global diversity embraces multiple differences present in the global workforce. The multicultural discourses of global reality interplay with organizational discourses and contribute to the ramification of discursive formations of particular organization at global and domestic level. As Stohl (2005) noticed, "organizational survival and efficacy in contemporary society is built upon the ability to understand and address cultural differences within the workplace and across markets" (p. 225).

So, cultural diversity poses a set of questions for theorists and practitioners of organizational communication. These questions require 1) revision of existing concepts of diversity in relation to the global context and 2) their explication, which might explain how organizational communication can facilitate integration/inclusion of the culturally diverse workforce into contemporary business environment at home and abroad, which strategies should be applied to promote this integration, and what can provide equality in the workplace.

The purpose of this review is 1) to look into recent approaches to the issue of global cultural diversity offered by communication research, and figure out how these approaches are relevant for organizational context in view of the challenges posed by increasing global migration; 2) to understand how and to what extent migration/immigration issues get refracted in the interpretation of cultural diversity in the US workplace and reflect organizational dynamics; 3) to investigate major themes of international organizational communication research, which analyze local diversity experiences.

Cultural perspectives of global diversity

As Fine (1996) noticed, originally most studies of cultural diversity were focused on global diversity and on registering differences across national cultures (see, for example Hofstede (1984); Sunaoshi (2005), Yamaguchi (2009)). The focus was caused by several pragmatic reasons: 1) this interest reflected business community concerns about applicability and efficacy of US business practices abroad; 2) it was at the bottom of the competition between the US and Asian countries (Japan, China); 3) it responded to the needs of business to know more about organizational and communication practices throughout the world. Pragmatism was supported by abound research in intercultural communication, which focused on cultural differences and the ways in which those differences lead to misperceptions and miscommunication between people from different cultural backgrounds. Currently, intercultural communication research continues the tradition and makes its contribution to theorizing cultural diversity in the global context.

Some recent scholarly works addressed general macro-level concerns with regard to global cultural homogenization and loss of traditional cultural identity. Bhawuk (2008) articulates his view of globalization as a potential threat to the diversity of world cultures and highlights the dominance of Western cultures.

Opposite to the above view, Berry (2008) challenges the commonly held view that globalization brings about a single outcome of cultural homogenization. Berry asserts that here is not so much cultural convergence, or cultural assimilation, as people might assume. Based on the materials from empirical studies of various diasporas, immigrants, and nation-states, Berry argues that people resist global acculturative pressures.

Resonating with the above view, Sparks (2007) recognizes that previously coherent national cultures have undergone some cultural interventions under globalization. Recognizing the centrality of symbolic exchange in this process, which he links to unrestricted worldwide circulation of cultural artefacts and media products, Sparks questions the claims that cultural experience of the global epoch is "deterritorized" (p.144), though symbolic material, out which cultural artefacts are made, can originate anywhere. He states that local cultural producers reshape cultural products to fit what their new owners believe will appeal to the sensibilities of the particular market place in which they are operating (p.145). So, Sparks rather interprets cultural dimensions of globalization as transforming and creating a fusion of cultures.

Developing previous themes of migration and dislocation, associated with globalization, Kim (2008) addresses the issue of human identity and personal transformation at the globalization crossroads. In her view, through prolonged and cumulative intercultural experiences, individuals can undergo a gradual process of evolution beyond the perimeters of the original culture, and gradually develop "intercultural personhood", which might be seen as a constructive way of orienting oneself in a different cultural environment, whether it's a foreign country or a different workplace.

Focusing on economic migration as the direct correlate of globalization, Landis (2008), on the example of Orlando, Florida (currently a significant export-import center), focuses on rapidly increasing population movements from poor to wealthy nations. He also discusses and the experience of dislocation and intercultural conflict between the hosts and the newly arrived groups, which might be caused by the struggle for vacant jobs. Landis contends that the possibly disastrous intercultural conflicts in many global urban centers must be heeded and that nations must find ways to mitigate the worst possible outcomes. Sharing Landis's concerns about disastrous outcomes of a possible intercultural conflict, Wilpert (2009) draws a more pessimistic picture by saying that "the entry of foreign workers also raises issues such as how European or US managers and regulators deal with the proliferation of immigrant workshops and sweatshops, which threaten to reintroduce the poor labor conditions of 19th Century Europe and 20th Century Asia into the back streets of Europe and the US" (p.731).

Among the trends, which come from international scholarly community, one thread focuses on transnational patterns and brings transnationalism to the research agenda. The scholars (e.g. Cheng, 2005; Urban, 2008) argue that transnational practices emerged in the context of relations between the labor and resources generated by global capitalism. Some scholars (e.g. Polson&Kahle, 2010) working in the area have introduced a newly emerging phenomenon of a transnational immigrant worker. Given the specifics of modern communication technologies, transnational immigrants have the capacity to maintain embeddedness into two cultures, being employed in either. Consequently, immigrants' sense of belonging can no longer be perceived as a dichotomy between here and there, but rather as simultaneous attachments to multiple homelands (Cheng, 2005). Echoing, Urban (2008) asserts that transnational immigrants occupy transnational spaces, for, contrary to commonly presumed assimilation, they try to effectively function "between the worlds" (p.198), as they both accept the cultural norms of their host society and continue to draw on the cultural resources of their country of origin. So, their communicative experiences and consciousness are replete with identity concerns, and in the same time, are absolutely unique. As Cheng (2005) stresses, immigrants' multiple loyalties cause host country members' anxiety and fear toward foreign-born individuals, especially when the multicentered connections among people and places are ignored or misinterpreted. The scholars also see the creation of transnational spaces as a strategy that might help immigrants navigate the social, economic, and political climate in the United States that tends to marginalize and alienate them.

These generalizations have implication for organizational communication, as they conceptualize the external environment, in which organizations have to operate, and accentuate the problematic areas associated with cultural diversity, specifically 1) migration/dislocation, 2) intercultural tension/conflicts, 3) assimilation/acculturation, and 4) cultural identity. Taking into account the fact that only in the USA the number of foreign-born individuals amounts to nearly 40 million people, or 13% of the US population (US Census Bureau, 2012), cultural diversity as a consequence of global migration becomes a domestic challenge, and inevitably impacts US organizations as major employers. In that sense, it challenges the historically established patterns of diversity in the US workplace, as well as traditional managerial practices.

Cultural diversity and the US workplace

There is a large body of literature, which has examined the issue of diversity in the workplace far and wide. As Kirby&Harter (2001) noted, the ideological framework of many approaches to diversity has been reflected in the metaphor of "managing diversity". Diversity is framed as a "resource to be managed", not for social or moral reasons but for competitive advantage. Diversity management is viewed as a strategy similar to a change in accounting practices; it is used to gain a competitive edge and make a profit. The need to manage diversity is promoted for four business reasons: (a) to keep and gain market share, (b) to reduce costs, (c) to increase productivity, and (d) to improve the quality of management in organizations (p.122).

Since 1990s diversity has been approached as a mix of all differences within an organization, rather than an individual characteristic. With this in view, diversity management presumes incorporation of race/ethnicity, religion, gender, age as targets. Within this general paradigm, Cox (1993) suggested the idea of "valuing diversity". The ways diversity can add value to an organization are as follows: 1) improved problem solving, 2) greater creativity and innovation, 3) increased organizational flexibility, 4) better quality personnel and, 5) improved marketing strategies (Grime&Richard, p. 9). However, despite of "the challenge posed by the increasing cultural diversity of the U.S. workforce" (Fine, 1996, p. 499), the programs aimed at managing diversity have not been fully implemented (Grime&Richard, p. 9).

Case studies and applied research demonstrate how the programs were realized in practice, and give and insiders' view on diversity trainings and diversity approaches in organizations. In the case of San Antonio, Texas, among numerous activities offered by the program, the overarching notion of diversity was almost lost. (Scott, 2007). This diversity training program, launched by CPS Energy was built primarily on the Affirmative Action rhetoric, and had its major focus on cultural differences between Latino, Black and Caucasian components of the organization.

Taylor&Finley (2008) examined communication training for foreign guest workers at seasonal resorts, which can be also classified as diversity training. The purpose of the training was to socialize guest workers from 40 resorts into the US business customer service patterns and procedures. The case study shows that at the start the employer divided the guest workers into the categories of servicemen according to their country of origin, as he already had concrete assumptions about their cultural backgrounds (Bulgarians are too proud; Romanians are easy-going, Russians easily break the rules, Mexicans are good at landscaping, etc.) (Taylor&Finley, 2008, p. 3). The employee trainings required that guest workers adjust their behavioral patterns and individual styles to American standards. This study reveals the existence of stereotypes and certain prejudices among American employers. Extrapolating this temporary experience to the foreign-born individuals who have permanent employment and seek further professional development in American business environment, we can understand what challenges they can face in building their careers.

As such "managing diversity" project does not fully tackle the dilemmas of diversity, it ignores crucial intervening variables at both individual/interpersonal levels and organizational/cultural levels.

A recent attempt to overcome these deficiencies was made by Grime and Richard (2003), who offered a new framework of communication diversity. Using Perce's major theoretical assumption that communication is always social as a starting point, they argue that people create and recreate their realities, cultures, and identities through communication. The authors categorize the modes of communication as "treat others as natives" (monocultural communication) and "threat others as non-natives"(cosmopolitan communication). Treating others as natives means to consider them to be part of your group (however defined) and you judge them by your own group's standards. Treating them as non-native means realizing they are part of a different group, and that they have different criteria for making judgements. You would then find out and use their criteria when communicating with them rather than using your own criteria. Grime and Richard characterize monocultural communication as ethnocentric and having simplistic scripts. They also claim that such scripts function to "keep non-natives predictable" (p.14). As an alternative, they recommend cosmopolitan communication model for diverse organizations, because, in their view, it offers an organization tangible benefits. They claim that cosmopolitan communicators can make important contributions to diverse organizations because they do not ignore differences, but instead, fully recognize, appreciate, and collaborate across them. "Similar to those trained in diversity issues, cosmopolitan communicators are well prepared to deal with issues directly related to diversity such as hiring, retaining, and promoting underrepresented groups" (p.18).

Fine (1996) suggested that stereotypes, ethnocentric ideas, and racism may thrive at organizational level even as individual organizational members become less racist, so, in my view, drawing on the cosmopolitan form will not automatically lead to changes at the systemic level. There is another work on diversity that does in fact address the organizational level. Like in the previous article, Robin Ely and David Thomas (e.g., Ely & Thomas, 2001; Thomas & Ely, 1996) address variables that intervene in the diversity-to-organizational effectiveness relationship. These researchers theorize three perspectives on diversity, one in which diverse members are recruited for legal or fairness reasons and expected to assimilate, and a second, in which diverse members are recruited to work only with niche markets of which they are members. In the third, called the integration-and-learning perspective, nondominant group members may also be recruited for reasons of fairness and/or to reach new markets. However, these organizations come to "incorporate employees' perspectives into the main work of the organization and . . . enhance work by rethinking primary tasks and redefining markets, products, strategies, missions, business practices, and even cultures" (Thomas & Ely, 1996, emphasis in original). In other words, nondominant group members help their organizations 'learn to learn'. Ely and Thomas (1996) do not fully explain how key leaders develop the integration-and-learning perspective, but interaction based on the cosmopolitan communication model might suggest how such a transformation could occur. The learning-and-integration perspective illustrates one way that an organization that might make changes at the organizational level. Combining the cosmopolitan communication model with the integration-and-learning diversity perspective could strengthen organizations' diversity efforts. The combination could also enhance theorizing about learning organizations, as well as research on managing diversity.

It should also be noted that these communication models challenge traditional assimilation paradigm, which has been previously applied by organizational managers at a large scale. In the same way, they deviate from traditional notions of organizational diversity, which primarily concentrated on gender differences, and less on race/ethnicity. The models offer a holistic approach, which might help combine interpersonal and organizational variables in communication to achieve the desired goals.

Even without critique of assimilation as a set of discursive practices, which are ultimately aimed at maintaining the existing status quo, assimilation seems problematic in understanding American cultural realities. As Levitt (2001) in his study of immigrants noted, there is no monolithic American culture that immigrants assimilate into. "They may exhibit structural assimilation without cultural…assimilation, or they may assimilate into different segments of U.S. society. They often use their identities symbolically or instrumentally, tailoring them to fit particular settings" (p.3). This attitude toward assimilation was supported by Fine (1996), who specified it for organizational settings. She characterized the host culture of most US organizations as white male culture, which in most cases is not hospitable to those who are different, however the realm of the culture is shrinking. As Fine remarks, "we can no longer talk about a melting pot nation in which assimilated peoples share the same history, language, and personal and political values. It's impossible to entreat workers to "do as the Romans do" when there is no Rome"(p. 494).

The above Fine's argument accentuates several current challenges to organizational communication: 1) it brings to the consideration alternatives to assimilation policy; 2) it indicates that existing communication patterns are no longer centralized, rather they are fluid and subject to negotiations; 3) it raises the problem of language use as symbolic representation of a new communicative reality.

Language diversity and Domestic multilingualism

People's social identities are shaped to a great extent by the group and communities to which they belong. Language is used to shape and represent an identity, at the same time constructing the reality. However, the degree of individual effort people can exert in shaping their identities through language is not always equal. In many ways this aspect is negotiable and arises from specific social and cultural contexts, which might enable or constrain this action. For immigrants who find themselves cut off their communities and are obviously limited in linguistic representation of their identities language policies in the workplace are absolutely vital.

As a result of major changes in government immigration policies, foreign language and civil rights laws, language diversity has been increasing throughout the United States since mid-1960s. An inevitable consequence was seen in the formation of multilingual environments in the workplace. In 1979 The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission adopted the rules establishing when and under what conditions the workplace policies could require that only English be spoken by employees. Consent agreements and litigation brought under this "English-only" rule have resulted in a number of decisions that have assumed certain things about bilingualism and bilinguals, as well as about language attitudes and monolinguals. While not all of these decisions have been uniform, some of these assumptions have raised the following questions: 1) how does bilingual speech affect work performance; and 2) to what extent do English monolinguals need "protection" from hearing non-English languages around them (whether as clients or employees in a work situation).

To answer those questions, Macias (1998) reviewed a selected case of an urban university-based hospital in San Francisco. The case involved work conflicts between the management and foreign-born stuff members, who used code switching while serving hospital patients. Although Macias is optimistic about the negotiations and their outcomes, they took a lot of time and involved several levels of authority. The agreement was partial and allowed code switching in a number of cases, yet fixing English as a high status language. The most positive outcomes were increasing efficiency of nurses and other service personnel together with higher rates of patients' satisfaction, as many of them were Hispanics.

Analyzing the English-only policy in the workplace, Murphy (2002) argues that its advocates focus on pragmatic benefits in prescribing when, where and how individuals can speak. This approach to organizational culture assumes that it is possible and desirable to have clear and consistent meaning shared by all organizational members. This assimilation effort is aimed at maintaining dominant structures within an organization, and creates a pyramid with English-only speaking managers at the top, and a wide bottom of subordinate minority employees. It's what happened in the hospital case studied by Macias. Murphy states that in organization practice English-only policy is a utopian goal, as silenced diverse voices create "hidden transcripts"(p.628)

Hitlan et al. (2006) examined the impact of language exclusion on work-related attitudes and behaviors. They argue that language ostracism in the workplace is damaging for the organization. The ostracized disentangle themselves from the organizational life, its goals and mission, what has a potentially negative impact on work relations and organizational environment. The research also supports an idea that language exclusion can serve as a means of symbolic violence.

The study of Meares et al. (2004) strongly resonates with Hitlan et al.'s, raising the general issue of employees' mistreatment in the diverse workplace. They categorize mistreatment as 1) interactional, mistreatment by an authoritative figure, 2) distributive, lack of access to resources, 3) procedural, unfair policies and procedure influencing distributive decision; and 4) systemic, unfair issues within a larger organization. In their view, the strategy of mistreatment is targeted to the group of "muted voices", which primarily embraces the minorities and Latino immigrants. The metaphor of muted voices echoes with language ostracism in the workplace. In my view, language exclusion bears all characteristics of mistreatment suggested by the authors.

As Dietz and Pugh's (2004) concluded English-only policy may be detrimental for company management, as the employees from immigrant families (where only one member may be an immigrant) tend to judge negatively about such a company, as they believe that such company does not care about its employees. It may find its reflections in daily interactions in the organization and affect the organization's environment. It supports the idea of "hidden transcripts" (Murphy, 2002), which create the areas of resistance to managerial authority within an organization.

In sum, most scholarly works examining the issue of language in the context of diversity focus on such immigrant populations as Hispanic and Latino groups. The issues related to other non-native speakers of English are presented to a much less extent. It should also be noted, that multinational corporations working in international multilingual environment pursue opposite language policies, adjusting their discourse to the needs of potential clients and qualified foreign workforce (see, for example, Thomas, 2008; Daspro, 2009). Yet, due to its special status as lingua franca English dominates business communication.

Diversity: International Experiences

A separate thread of research stems from the attempts of international scholars to comprehend how global realities, and specifically, migration process, affect their domestic business practices.

Analyzing the globalization pressures, which challenge New Zealand workplace, Cruickshank (2007) indicated growing immigration as one of the most challenging issues. The orientation of business to hire highly skilled and qualified non-English speaking workers is making New Zealand workplace much more diverse. Traditionally monocultural business environment faces the need to embrace diversity and increase intercultural competence. Both immigrants and companies have identified communication barriers such as a lack of English-language skills, inadequate interpersonal skills, a lack of social networks, and cultural differences. These barriers signal the need for intercultural communication competence in the workplace. At the same time, no assessment is undertaken of the intercultural competences of the employers and their managers who hire these workers, so inadequacies are usually attributed to the immigrant workers. Cruickshank also notes that businesses often find it challenging to invest resources in communication competence training and development because of the lack of recognition of the importance of making the requisite time to communicate effectively. Although some employers and management view staff diversity as a threat, which requires more time and energy than are available in smaller businesses, another perspective reveals organizations that recognize diversity as a source of valuable knowledge and expertise that could provide competitive advantages and opportunities. Referring to the organizations, which value diversity, the author focuses on their integrative practices, which guide an immigrant worker through the process of socialization in the organization. Cruickshank does not disclose his understanding of integration vs assimilation, yet we might assume that this strategy require to "more respect individuals" (p. 92).

Usulata&Bal (2007) examine diversity policies of one of the biggest Turkish textile companies, Imteks. Imteks employs 1,456 workers and produces ready-wear brands such as Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger, Marks & Spencer, Nike, and Puma. Historically Turkey is located at the crossroads of trade paths between Europe and Asia. Due to its rapid economic growth it has been attracting numbers of immigrant workers, its workforce being extremely diverse. Imteks has implemented diversity program based on Ned Herrman's "Whole Brain Model," whereby the mental preferences of its employees were determined and then analyzed according to various departments. As a result of this project, four different types of mental preference groups were established: the rational self, the safekeeping self, the feeling self, and the experimental self. Using this framework, Imteks initiated coaching and trainings. The trainings were designed according to the developmental needs as outlined by the mental preferences analysis. Further, the project teams were based on the results of the analysis. Interestingly, the authors stress that the notion of diversity in Turkey excludes racial component, it's rather an ethic and cultural issue. The project seems innovative as it appeals to cultural identity. The authors also mentioned the concerns of Imteks's HR management about the lack of research on local diversity realities, which might help in developing more elaborate diversity policies.

According to Al-Jenabi (2011), in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ethnic diversity is a result of one of the world's highest net migration rates. In UAE expatriates account for 90% of its population, including residents from South Asia, China, the Philippines, Thailand, Iran, northern Africa, and Western countries. Migrants are concentrated in two main sectors of economy: construction and domestic work. These pressures force UAE managers to look for ways to address the issue of diversity. Al-Jenabi's findings (based on large set of interviews) reveal that UAE executives and officials held ambivalent views on diversity, as they raise both economic and nationalistic questions about the role of workplace diversity. The executives and officials advocate the process of employee assimilation to the dominant organizational culture through language acquisition and workplace training. The author suggests a more pluralistic approach that would transcend nationality and create common ground based on values, attitudes, and communication practices related to education, profession, gender, age, and other aspects of culture.

So, as the above research works show, the countries, which have become attractive destinations for globally migrating workers, are challenged with the issues associated with increasing cultural diversity in the workplace. Organizational managers have to accommodate diversity, though their approaches differ in general interpretation of cultural diversity (threat/benefit), or in the ways through which diversity should be incorporated into their practices (assimilation, inclusion, integration, indefinite "pluralistic" approach). In managerial practice, orientation (as initial socialization) and language training become a necessity (e.g. Kienzle&Husar, 2007; Lauring, 2011; Tange&Lauring, 2009).


The initial intent to write this review was to address the issue of foreign-born faculty within American education system, which was stimulated by my personal and professional interests. However, it turned out that immigration and education issues are more the concerns of sociology and behavioral sciences, rather that a theme for organizational communication research. Within the communication field there are single articles, which discuss immigrant faculty (e.g. Borisoff, 1990; Mary&Min Sun, 1993; Thweatt, 2003), yet they primarily refer to linguistic competence of foreign-born professors. Although, the number of international scholars (researchers, instructors, professors) is constantly growing, and the profession is communicative in its essence, and universities may be regarded as a specific type of organization (for example, regarded within the framework of knowledge organizations), it has not received much attention within communication research. The same can be said about international knowledge workers in general, though in practice, international collaborations as teams design their concrete operational procedures and principles of organization (e.g. Fermilab).

There are several reasons, explaining why immigrant issues are regarded in organizational contexts under the general umbrella of diversity. First, within American organizations immigrants are commonly identified with minority groups. Therefore, we may regard all our discussion of diversity in organizations as relevant to immigrant population. Second, organizations first recognized that they are gendered, and then, that they are raced. Thus, it established certain parameters of differentiation. Third, further identification of minority sub-groups focused on Latino population and defined the direction of research. Forth, other groups, which have no visible race/gender markers are usually referred to either group, and thus, assimilate within designated context. Fifth, affirmative action fostered research on the marginalized organizational groups, low-skilled, low-paid "muted voices", which overlap with specific categories of immigrants (Latino, for instance). Diversity programs were primarily tailored for these categories to facilitate business efforts aimed at their faster incorporation. The only business practices, which are opposite to the "mainstream", have arisen in New Zealand, where highly qualified labor is welcomed. This may also explain the lack on research on foreign-born faculty as they might be also seen as an asset. Another consideration is that the level of education makes them more flexible and their assimilation into a host culture is not as problematic. In practice, the situation is likely to be more complex and needs further exploration.

As it is seen from our discussion of global diversity, an immigrant faces a lot of challenges in dealing with widely circulating attitudes and assumptions. He is ether seen as a threat, or a problem. He/she is either subject to assimilation, or, in a better case, to incorporation. Immigrant identities are challenged at various levels, either through associating them with some group he/she doesn't belong to, or through aligning with organizational culture, or through language practices adopted by an organization. Fine (1996) noted that in fact, there are very few works on diversity within organizational communication field. The research on immigrants reflects this incongruity. Although foreign-born individuals who have decided to continue their lives in the United States may not consider themselves to belong to the broad category of immigrants, they do share similar difficulties and rewards while communicating in their new home. Finally, "we, as immigrants, also contribute to the creation and maintenance of the power structures that we consider so constraining to the expression of our true selves" (Urban, 2008, p. 220).