ArticlePDF Available

Book Review: Managing Diversity: Towards a Globally Inclusive Workplace by Michalle E. Mor Barak (Sage, Thousand Oaks, London & New Delhi, 2005)

Authors:
  • Formerly Professor of HRM Management Development Institute
VISION—The Journal of Business Perspective Vol. 9 No. 1 January–March 2005
Book Reviews 111
employee discontent and potential counter-
mobilisation, which were effectively reduced, if not
completely suppressed, by the management. Miguel
Martinez Lucio and Mark Stuart argue for the need to
view unions in the partnership context as undertaking
what they term as ‘strategic ventures’. The meaning of
partnership is fragile in part due to “unsupportive”
external political, regulatory and economic factors, and
also due to the political dimensions of industrial
relations in the UK. The authors discuss politics of
partnership at three levels of employment relations: the
intra-union, the management-union, and the inter-union
interfaces. The failure to crystallise and develop
systematic voice mechanisms within industrial relations
is a salient feature of partnership in Britain.
Steven Vincent and Irena Grugulis find that
managers removed expensive skills from the
organisation to reduce costs, despite an increase in the
workload. Moreover, the managers were accountable to
government auditors, not other IT experts who might
judge the standards that they set themselves. Within the
new organisational form employees often had reduced
career prospects and individualised terms and
conditions encouraged un-rewarded increases in the
effort bargain. The case study suggests that contractual
governance is not the best way to manage complex IT
developments.
Michael Rose looks at the question of employee
perceptions of their job trajectory in order to understand
how the employment relationship is evolving in
contemporary capitalism. The author notes that while
there is a strong increase during the 1990s in the
perception of having a career, fewer or less clear career
ladders in the work organisation or occupation are
available to days, to the individual employees. How far
will employees find it possible to accommodate to, and
to rationalise, their experience of disappointed
aspirations remains an unanswered question.
The last chapter by Harriet Bradley, Ranji
Devadason, Steve Fenton, Will Guy and Jackie West
suggests that for young adults, the transition into
employment stability and adult independence are now
more complex and problematic. Globalisation processes
have created new cohorts of “winners and losers”.
Contrary to popular perception, the study finds no
evidence of diminished attachment to career
development, jobs or earning among the young
population. On the contrary, there is an intelligent
endeavour to secure a reasonable ‘work-life balance’,
with attention given to career development, to family
establishments and to a ‘good’ leisure life of friendship
and fun.
In all, the volume contains an interesting set of
papers which addresses important issues of the
contemporary work-place. In my view, the book would
have been much more reader/user friendly if the editor
had divided the volume into different sections, with
brief introductory remarks to each section.
Kuriakose Mamkoottam
Professor of Human Resource Management
Faculty of Management Studies
University of Delhi
Delhi-110 007
Michelle E. Mor Barak, Managing Diversity:
Towards a Globally Inclusive Workplace, Thousand
Oaks, Sage, 2005, xvi+342pp. $ 49.95 Soft.
Diversity management (DM) is considered to be one of
the key emerging themes in contemporary strategic
HRM discourse especially in the Western world. DM is
a soft HRM intervention for developing an employee-
oriented performance culture. The traditional concept of
“organizational culture” is in a way getting somewhat
modified so as to incorporate in it respect for diversity
needs of employees rather than promoting a culture of
organizational monolith. DM seeks to promote
synchronization of multiple cultural values rather than
making the employee adapt to the rigidity of the
organization’s persona. Leading organizations are
building on diversity values as strategy on the premise
that a diverse workforce can lead to greater effectiveness
of the organization by enhancing its versatility.
The post-modernism discourse that is in vogue
these days puts a higher value on the individual and the
uniqueness of individual differences. It is believed that
no one else can represent you except you yourself; for
every human being possesses is a unique set of skills,
experiences and perspectives to the things he does. DM
has become an accepted fact in business lexicon over the
last 15 years or so. It is believed that organizations that
do not leverage this uniqueness of diversity will not be
able to compete in the extremely complex, demanding
and borderless marketplace that is now emerging.
Increasingly, organizations are thus seen to be
establishing and supporting new policies and
competencies that value variation in approaches and
perspectives of different employees, with the aim of
unleashing synergy among all members.
VISION—The Journal of Business Perspective Vol. 9 No. 1 January–March 2005
112 Book Reviews
Another catchy term in vogue in these times of
increasing globalization is ‘global workforce’. The
multinational corporations (MNCs) in particular have
been conducting experiments in the area of developing a
harmonious, well-knit global workforce, which perhaps
explains why, of late, DM—as a means of promoting the
globalized workforce—is receiving the attention of
academics as well as corporates. The concept of DM of
yesteryear gave primacy to the concept of equality and
equal opportunity for all through the legal route. In the
contemporary scenario, the DM concept seems to be
shifting towards providing equal opportunities to
diversified and often disadvantaged groups, and also
towards meeting the diversity needs of individuals and
groups. This may be done through legal
instrumentalities and/or voluntarily respecting the
individual differences by way of interventions that can
be of systemic or/and processual nature. The new
development is being labeled as DM as a business case
rather than as an issue of mere legal compliance. But
literature on diversity is still in its infancy.
This not the least of the reasons, therefore, why the
book under review is a welcome addition to the
literature on building a globally inclusive workplace. It
has been divided into three parts consisting of 16 chapters
in all including the introduction. Mor Barak’s work has
culminated in this form on the basis of her interviews with
employees and managers around the globe, and also some
of her research projects. The author defines an inclusive
workplace as one that “values and utilizes individual and
inter-group differences within its workforce; cooperates
with, and contributes to, its surrounding community;
alleviates the needs of disadvantaged groups in its wider
environment; and collaborates with individuals, groups,
and organizations across national and cultural
boundaries” (p. 8).
The first part of the book, consisting of four chapters,
deals with macro perspective on diversity, focusing on
issues such as global demographic trends, legislation, and
public policies in different countries. The second part,
which too consists of four chapters, provides a micro
perspective on diversity. In other words, it deals with
diversity of the diversity concept itself, across different
countries in terms of definition, underlying diversity
theories, interpersonal and cultural aspects, and
communication in the workplace. In part three, which
consists of seven chapters, are discussed solutions and
practical interventions, i.e., inclusive workplace model,
and case studies demonstrating how organizations in
different parts of the world can apply this model.
Several distinguishing features of this book deliver
value to the reader. Firstly, the book goes into the causal
roots of workplace exclusion practices of employers as
also their consequences. The analysis focuses on the
groups that are commonly excluded in different parts of
the world. Secondly, the book provides latest
information on changing workplace realities across
countries, including legislation, demography, and
developments in social policy. This has been done
through vignettes and case studies from different parts
of the world. Thirdly, it envisages a comprehensive
“inclusive workplace model” which inter alia includes
policies, procedures, and programmes that can facilitate
the development of an inclusive workplace. Fourthly,
the book presents cogent reasoning for developing a
globally diverse workforce as a business case. Fifthly, it
carries both theoretical content and practical
information. The book offers some thoughtful
illustrations and practical solutions to problems
involved in developing a globally inclusive workplace.
While the book has the above-mentioned merits,
there is one problem that one encounters while
comprehending the author’s views on inclusive
workforce. As the literature suggests, in the present era,
DM has come to be practiced as a volutarist non-legal
model. It is done so as to secure long-term competitive
advantage and not merely as any ethical practice. DM
today is practiced as a business case, for preferential
treatment purely on grounds of social justice is seen as
patronizing. While Mor Barak does recognize DM
practice as a business case, she advocates a legal model,
arguing that without strong legislative foundations and
sound proactive public policy, diversity programmes
will be ephemeral, believing as she does that
organizations have a tendency to link DM practice with
financial profits, thus undoing all the good work
characterized by a good amount of analysis in support of
DM practice for developing a globally inclusive
workforce. In doing so, sadly, the book assumes
moralistic undertones that might not find favour with all
DM practitioners. Secondly, she sees DM more in terms
of group differences such as those associated with race,
age, sex, region, nationality, disability, sexual
orientation, etc., while remaining silent about
differences not related to these, as represented by
individual idiosyncrasies, competencies, needs and
mindsets. There is almost no discussion on this. Were
she to acknowledge that these too would be included in
her scheme of DM, would she still advocate the legal
route for catering to this diversity? These are some of the
baffling questions the reader needs answers to!
VISION—The Journal of Business Perspective Vol. 9 No. 1 January–March 2005
Book Reviews 113
In spite of such caveats, however, the book will be
helpful for students and scholars in international
business management, international HRM, diversity
management and cross-cultural management. It is a
useful resource for conceptualizing and implementing
an inclusive workplace agenda. It reflects a global
perspective and will interest readers across countries,
having demonstrated well that when diversity and
inclusion are practiced as business strategies, they help
in providing competitive advantage. It rightly suggests
that in order to meaningfully practice DM, people must
be educated and held accountable for demonstrating
new behaviours and competencies envisaging support
for a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Debi S. Saini (Dr.)
Professor of Human Resource Management
Management Development Institute
Mehrauli Road, Sukhrali
Gurgaon-122001
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
Randiv Mehra, Getting to Transformation—How
Organisations can Unleash the Power of the Internet
and E-Business and Reinvent Themselves: A
Manager’s Handbook, New Delhi, Macmillan India
Ltd., 2004, pp. 450, Rs. 450 hard.
The book is a handy guide for practitioners who propose
to adopt e-business strategies in their organizations.
Starting off with Internet basics, the author discusses the
power of the Internet in the era of globalisation, citing
examples of some of the Internet success stories.
However, the author also cites the failure of some of the
dotcoms and highlights the important reasons for these
failures. In Part One of the book, the author thoughtfully
exposes the reader to various issues such as language
and cultural barriers, legal and taxation matters, telecom
infrastructure and payment systems which need to be
considered while embarking on an e-business initiative.
The ten-step plan outlined for website development
contains useful tips for creating effective web presence
for an e-business venture.
In part two, the author discusses the various
marketing techniques and strategies that can be adopted
in an Internet enabled business. Online marketing
techniques and customer services on the Internet are
explained in detail. Numerous examples are used to
stress the need for strong a customer service focus, for
long-term sustainability of e-enabled businesses. The
discussion on online advertising provides important
insights into banner advertisements. The section on
tools and techniques details those that improve online
customer experience such as self-service and
personalisation, providing important tips to those
wishing to sell products and services over the Internet.
The importance of building trust with the customer is
emphasised.
Part three elaborates on Enterprise Resource
Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management
(CRM), and Supply Chain Management (SCM) and
their interrelationships in building a systemic IT-
enabled organizational solution. In the section on ERP,
the author provides a handy, easy-to-practice five-phase
model for ERP implementation. Applications of CRM
such as Sales Force Automation and automated
marketing are mentioned. The differences in adopting
ERP, SCM and CRM in a products vis-à-vis services
industry are brought out adequately. The section on
knowledge management is an important contribution,
addressing as it does the needs of an organization
moving from information based to knowledge based.
The last part of the book is devoted to discussing the
strategies and leadership initiatives required for
transforming an organisation into an e-enabled
enterprise. The author orchestrates a fitting finale by
using a pyramid model of transformation, linking
various key concepts and components for pursuing an
Internet and e-business strategy, thus giving a holistic
picture of the issues and concepts discussed in the book.
A very important contribution of the book is that the
strategies and techniques are discussed both for
Business-to-Consumer (B2C) e-commerce as well as
Business-to-Business (B2B) e-business domains.
Numerous examples given throughout the book makes it
not only informative but also interesting. The author’s
expertise in quality becomes evident when ISO 9001
certification and quality assurance are repeatedly
emphasized throughout the book.
Though one finds frequent mention of
asianpaints.com and mahindra.com as examples in
Business-to-Business (B2B) e-business domain, the
likes of planetm.co.in—a shining example of
successful implementation of some of the
relationship and online marketing techniques barely
figure in the discussion of Business-to-Consumer (B2C)
e-commerce area. In fact, fabmall.com, which is a
pioneer in B2C e-commerce in India, is not mentioned
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.