Diversity books examine roots of inequity (HR Manager's Bookshelf)

Making Diversity Work • Managing Cultural Diversity in Technical Professions • Intercultural Management • The Difference “Difference” Makes • The Shadow Negotiation

Diversity has entered the business mainstream, and leaders in nearly every organization recognize the importance of sensitivity and skill in understanding and dealing with a diverse workforce.

Can the diversity challenge be met primarily though organizational and systemic policies and initiatives? The book, Making Diversity Work, argues that both the problem and the solution lie more with individuals. It presents a process for facing biases head on and overcoming their destructive impact.

Managing Cultural Diversity in Technical Professions tackles the reality that managers in technical organizations have known for years — the workforce is a kind of mini United Nations, and achievement of results depends on astute management of the cross-cultural characteristics of the people who must work well together. In Intercultural Management, the perspective is even wider, focusing on understanding and dealing with differences of international cultures and differences across diverse organizational units.

Two books examine specific issues that women face in today’s business, professional or government environments. The Difference “Difference” Makes takes a look at women and leadership, obstacles and successes as seen by leading experts in the fields of law, business and politics. The Shadow Negotiation provides insights and guidance for women in bargaining situations, where unspoken agendas often have great influence on the dynamics and outcomes.

Making Diversity Work
By Sondra Thiederman
199 pages, Dearborn (2003)
ISBN 0-7931-7763-4

This book by U.S. diversity expert Sondra Thiederman demonstrates that “Bias — the tendency to prejudge others according to the group to which they belong — costs American businesses millions in litigation costs, lost business and expensive turnover. The solution is not to try to change organizations to accept diversity, but to help individuals to see people more accurately and, therefore, function more effectively in a diverse workplace.”

The author outlines a process for defeating bias, starting with renewing personal vision:

Become mindful of biases: Observe and analyse thoughts, measure the emotional content, examine attitudes toward human difference.

Identify the alleged benefits of biases: Relief from feelings of guilt, protection against diminished status, loss and emotional pain, provision of an excuse for behaviour, protection of community and individual values.

Put biases through triage: Does bias compromise the ability to hire and retain the best people, attain maximum productivity, sustain harmonious teams? Does bias compromise sales efforts or put the organization at risk for litigation?

In addition to a thorough exploration of bias — its origins, how it is taught, how individuals can overcome it in themselves — numerous examples and vignettes illustrate the dynamics involved and better ways to handle workplace challenges.

The final section of the book, “Entering into diversity dialogue,” defines “gateway events” as opportunities to engage in conversations about bias, defined as the misunderstandings, accusations or discord between or about people who are different from each other. Employees participating in dialogue on biases need to recognize their fears — fear of intimacy or anger, fear of being judged, fear of having biases revealed.

Readers will learn about skills for cognitive dialogue (within themselves) and verbal skills for actual diversity dialogue with others, including maintaining high standards of communication, avoiding emotionally charged words and dogmatic statements, using understandable metaphors and descriptions, and most important of all, listening attentively and openly.

Managing Cultural Diversity in Technical Professions
By Lionel Laroche
238 pages, Butterworth Heinemann (2003)
ISBN 0-7506-7581-0

Athor Lionel Laroche is a cross-cultural trainer and consultant with international engineering experience in eight countries, including Canada. He begins with two key insights:

•most technical professionals do not recognize the impact of cultural differences in their work; and

•cross-cultural issues lead to a significant underutilization of talent.

In the foreword, a senior research advisor at Syncrude Canada writes that “Engineers and scientists born outside of North America are an essential and growing part of many technology-based organizations in Canada and the United States… The challenge is to build a synergistic management environment where creativity and inventiveness can flourish among people with diverse cultural backgrounds.”

Chapters explore the nature of culture and cultural differences, managing technical professionals, teamwork among multicultural professionals, communication of technical information, career management and a look into future trends in cultural differences, learning and rewards. Appendices offer advice for diversity trainers and HR managers, a demographic overview of new North Americans, a cross-cultural look at technical education and technical professional associations.

Intercultural Management
By Nina Jacob
250 pages, Kogan Page (2003)
ISBN 0-7494-3582-8

Looking at diversity from the broad organizational perspective, Intercultural Management concerns itself with workforces that function in different cultural contexts. These differences can be either external, where an organization operates across national and ethnic cultures, or internal, where an organization operates across company differences, branches or regions.

The book is built around several case studies of international corporations and not-for-profit institutions:

Credit Suisse: organizational structure and intercultural management;

Nestlé: effective intercultural communication, core values as ties that bind;

BMW: strategy, globalization, transnational collaborative agreements;

IBM: knowledge management, use of the Internet and intranet, leveraging knowledge;

Red Cross: conflict resolution, management styles, corporate culture, ethics; and

Independent and Counselling Services Ltd.: expatriate management.

While the book has an academic tone and will apply mainly to large, international organizations, it also provides examples of practical tools and approaches for the assessment of leadership competencies, structural change and communication. And there’s an interesting overview of national cultures classified according to degree of power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism and masculinity.

The book is part of a series entitled Managing Cultural Differences. For more information, go to www.bh.com/management.

The Difference “Difference” Makes
Ed. By Deborah L. Rhode
232 pages, Stanford University Press (2003)
ISBN 0-8047-4635-4

Women and leadership — the obstacles, successes, strategies and challenges entailed — are the subjects of this compendium of views derived from a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association and Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. The title chapter, by editor Deborah Rhode, addresses gender stereotypes, mentoring and support networks, workplace structures, adverse effects of unequal opportunities, leadership styles and priorities of women, and individual and institutional strategies for change.

Among the 20 contributions to the book:

•“You’ve come a long way, baby — and you’ve got miles to go” by Barbara Kellerman of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government;

•“Making the case: women in law” by Catalyst president Sheila Wellington;

•“Different rulers — different rules” by International Women’s Forum president and former Canadian Prime Minister, Kim Campbell;

•“Did I forget to tell you I’m in control?” by Colgate Palmolive executive Michele Coleman Mayes;

•“Strategies for developing white men as change agents for women leaders” by Teveia Barnes of the Bar Association of San Francisco; and

•“What men can give to women’s quest for leadership” by Jerome Shestack, lawyer and writer who created the ABA Committee on Human Rights.

The Shadow Negotiation
By Deborah Kolb and Judith Williams
284 pages, Simon & Shuster (2000)
ISBN 0-684-83840-0

Subtitled, “How women can master the hidden agendas that determine bargaining success,” this book addresses the special challenges women face in negotiation situations.

“The shadow negotiation is where hidden agendas and masked assumptions play out. Often it is defined by a whole array of attitudes of which the participants are only dimly aware. These hidden agendas drive the negotiation as much as explicit differences over the issues. Before you can reach a good agreement on the issues, these unvoiced views must be brought to the surface so that misguided impressions and unrealistic expectations — including your own — can be revised.”

Contents include:

•recognizing the shadow negotiation;

•the power of advocacy — promoting interests effectively;

•the promise of connection — building a collaborative relationship (lay the groundwork, engage counterparts, get collaboration to work); and

•putting it all together — balancing advocacy and connection (craft agreements, negotiate change).

Based on in-depth interviews with hundreds of businesswomen, the book provides examples, sample dialogue, guidance for handling situations and an extensive bibliography.

Ray Brillinger is a certified management consultant who works with clients on organizational change, HR strategy and performance improvement. He can be reached at (905) 547-8193 or [email protected].

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