Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 54, Issue 2, pp 129–147 | Cite as

Building an Inclusive Diversity Culture: Principles, Processes and Practice

  • Nicola Pless
  • Thomas Maak


In management theory and business practice, the dealing with diversity, especially a diverse workforce, has played a prominent role in recent years. In a globalizing economy companies recognized potential benefits of a multicultural workforce and tried to create more inclusive work environments. However, “many organizations have been disappointed with the results they have achieved in their efforts to meet the diversity challenge” [Cox: 2001, Creating the Multicultural Organization (Jossey-Bass, San Francisco)]. We see the reason for this in the fact that while much attention has been paid to the strategic dimension of diversity policies, systems, and processes, much less thought has been given to the normative dimension, the norms and values involved. Given the fact that diversity is essentially about cultural norms and values, appropriate reflection work becomes a fundamental task to create a truly inclusive work environment where people from diverse backgrounds feel respected and recognized. Therefore, we focus in this article on the challenge of building an inclusive diversity culture showing that such a “culture of inclusion” has to be built on solid moral grounds. We present a conceptual framework of inclusion based on a moral theory of recognition and introduce the founding principles of reciprocal understanding, standpoint plurality and mutual enabling, trust and integrity. After revealing barriers that hinder a culture of inclusion from emerging we shed light on the process of developing such a culture which involves four essential transformational stages: The first phase focuses on raising awareness, building understanding and encouraging reflection. The second phase deals with the development of a vision of inclusion as an important step to define the change direction. In a third phase key management concepts and principles should be re-thought. This leads to the fourth, action-oriented phase, that focuses on an integrated Human Relations Management (HRM)1 system that helps implement change by doing both, translating the founding principles via competencies into observable and measurable behavior and fostering the development, reinforcement and recognition of inclusive behavior.

Business principles Change management Corporate culture Diversity management Discourse ethics Ethics of recognition Business ethics Integrated personnel management system HRM 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicola Pless
    • 1
  • Thomas Maak
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Business EthicsUniversity of St. GallenCHSwitzerland

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