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(Mis)managing diversity: exploring the dangers of diversity management orthodoxy

David Knights (Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster, UK)
Vedran Omanović (School of Business, Economics and Law, Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, Sweden)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 8 February 2016




The purpose of this paper is to challenge the dominance of the mainstream discourse and practice of diversity management (DM) by identifying and problematizing three distinct but related issues that it encompasses: first, its tendency to displace all alternative approaches; second, its general neglect of the social-historical context and third, its almost exclusive focus on the business case rationale for supporting diversity.


Employing ethnographic research methods, the empirical material was collected in an international manufacturing corporation based in Sweden. It consists of three different, but interconnected approaches: archival research, interviews and observations.


The paper shows that in neglecting power, identity, intersectionality and the changing socio-historical context of diversity, a well-meaning corporate diversity programme tended to obscure ethnic and age-related disadvantages at work.

Research limitations/implications

The limitations of this research relate largely to its dependence on a single case study and the limited focus on diversity as it affected able-bodied, white male immigrant workers. A broader study of the multiplicity of types of discrimination and ways in which diversity is managed in a range of countries and organizations could facilitate a more in-depth exploration of these issues and arguments.


Although not entirely new, the three arguments that have been drawn upon to discuss, analyse and illustrate DM through our data have rarely been brought together in one theoretical and empirical study.



Knights, D. and Omanović, V. (2016), "(Mis)managing diversity: exploring the dangers of diversity management orthodoxy", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 5-16.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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