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Organizational knowledge and discourse of diversity in employment

Chris McVittie (School of Social Sciences, Media and Communication, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, UK)
Andy McKinlay (School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK)
Sue Widdicombe (School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 23 May 2008




Evidence suggests that the notion of diversity in employment has failed to meet expectations of increased inclusion and organizational competitiveness in an ever‐changing and globalizing economic context. This paper aims to consider the use of language of diversity in an organizational context.


Using discourse analysis, the paper examines data obtained from semi‐structured interviews conducted with human resources managers and personnel managers. Participants' descriptions of diversity in relation to one particular group of (potential) employees, namely older jobseekers, are analysed for their function and effects in relation to organizational knowledge and practices.


Diversity in employment provides organizational managers with a resource that can more usefully be viewed as linguistic than as knowledge based. Its use offers organizations a means of accounting for existing practices and should not be taken to signal commitment to organizational change.


Work that has treated discourse of diversity as evidence of efforts to promote inclusion and competitiveness has failed to consider fully the effects of language use. A focus on language as action in its own right shows how diversity in employment as used accomplished outcomes that are totally divergent from the usually assumed benefits of diversity.



McVittie, C., McKinlay, A. and Widdicombe, S. (2008), "Organizational knowledge and discourse of diversity in employment", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 348-366.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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