From a Monocultural to a Multicultural Organization

In my first article, I talked about the culture of U.S. and Canadian co-ops and noted how they were distinctly different from the mainstream white culture. I also raised questions around the lack of workers of color.

How do we know whether the organizations in which we are members and/or workers are monocultural or multicultural? What are the criteria of assessment? The following article addresses these issues, using a model designed by my teachers and mentors Rita Hardiman and Bailey Jackson.

It is important to keep in mind that this model operates on a continuum where one stage flows into the other and might differ from one oppression to the other. For example, as I pointed out previously, in my experience co-ops are moving towards multi cultural organization regarding the sexual preference of their workers, while the lack of people of color is more obvious.

Levels of development from monocultural to multicultural organizations: This model operates in three levels and indudes six stages.

First level: the monocultural organization

Stage 1: The Exclusionary Organization:

Openly advocates their supremacy and the inferiority of other groups. Domination is part of the mission. Structurally exclusionary. Difficult if not impossible to change, since change would violate the mission or purpose of the organization.

Example: the Ku Klux Klan.

Main agenda of the organization regarding minority employees: to keep them from being hired. Physical safety would be an issue in an environment of hate and disrespect.

Stage 2: The White Male Club:

This organization is structured to provide and maintain privilege for the white male. White male norms and values are correct. Others, e.g., women and minorities, are allowed into the organization so long as they actively assimilate and remain in their stereotypic roles. Supremacy is not the primary mission; change is possible.

Example: We all know organizations of this type. One which comes to my mind is the United States Supreme Court. Most of our institutions and corporations operate in this stage.

Issues for the minority employee: The organization in this stage is at a point where physical safety does exist; civility toward the "token" employee becomes the issue. On our campus, a Civility Commission was established whose task it is to promote civility on campus life and to act as a watchdog when incidents are reported.

Second level: non-discriminating organizations
within a monocultural context:

Stage 3: The Compliance Organization:

Committed to removing the "riggedness" ofthe White Male Club without making waves. Actively recruits for diversity. Fills quotas, numbers are everything. Typically hires minorities and women into low level or support positions. Those who make it into management must be "team players" and "qualified."

This organization is dedicated to diversifying its workforce and in this regard makes access for people of color its main agenda. This stage is also called the Equal Employment Organization.

Stage 4: The Affirmative Action Organization:

Going beyond simple recruiting and hiring for diversity, this organization takes an active role in insuring the success of women, people of color, disabled persons that are brought into the organization. Attends to those attitudes and behaviors which are offensive to employees who are different. Provides training for managers in the organizations on managing the diverse workforce. Makes it clear through reward and discipline system that affirmative action is an important agenda, yet it is still a monocultural organization.

The agenda here provides more than access; it wants success for the employees who are not mainstream, and these employees and workers can contribute as much as they are able to.

Third level: the multicultural organization

Stage 5: The Redefining Organization:

The organization is in transition and committed to becoming a multicultural organization. Begins to question the limitations of the monocultural perspective and begins to question the existing norms and who they support. Actively engages in visioning, planning and problem solving by including all existing perspectives and cultures. Activities are directed toward the realization ofa multicultural organization.

Stage 6: The Multicultural Organization, Ideal, Vision:

1. A multicultural organization reflects the contributions and interests of diverse cultural and social groups in its mission, operations and in the product or service delivery.

2. A multicultural organization acts on a commitment to the eradication of social oppression in all forms within the organization. It is sensitive to the possible violation of the interests of all cultural and social groups whether or not they are represented in the organization.

3. An organization is multicultural when its members come from diverse cultural and social groups and are a part of all levels within the organization, especially in those areas where decisions are made that shape the organization (equitable power distribution).

4. A multicultural organization follows through on its broader social responsiblity. It is a system which interacts with the environment. Specifically, this includes its responsibility to support efforts designed to eliminate all forms of social oppression. This involves the support of efforts designed to expand the concept of multiculturalism.

Before we can design strategies for change, it is important that we assess in which stage and where on this continuum our groups are. Goals and strategies for change must match the consciousness, the state of a group, in order to be effective. Since each stage has its specific agenda, it is important to address these organizational agendas as directly as possible.

Diagnostic areas for multicultural assessment:

1. Mission and values: sense of purpose: Does the mission of the organization reflect a commitment to diversity and a responsibility to the environment? Or does it only concern itself with the profit margin? What does this organization value in its broader statement? Are all employees "in tune" with this statement, are they aware of its existence? Is it merely a statement on paper, or is it in operation on a daily basis? Is the sense ofpurpose explicit or implicit?

2. Structure: personnel profile: What does the organizational chart look like? Who answers to whom and who makes the decisions? What are the possibilities of professional advancement? Look at recruitment and hiring practices.

3. Management practices: how the system manages output: Look at reward structure: Is diversity valued in rules and norms, are there consequences if not? Is training available so that employees might advance? Are regular performance evaluations in place? What are they like? Distribution and/or inclusion in decision making: What is the turnover of employees; is it known why they leave their job? Is this information used for improvement of management practices?

4. Technology: things used to increase production: Look at allocation of space, access to resources. What technology is used, do people have a chance to learn and be trained? Are the modes of communication inclusive or exclusive?

5. Awareness: climate, psycho-socio dynamics, morale: How do people feel a part of this organization? Are these feelings communicated and attended to? Inclusion and exclusion of people who are different. Looking closely at morale gives a good indicator of the stage of the group.

6. Output: bottom line: What are the profits, are they shared, where and how are they invested? Is money put aside for professional development, social issues training and for recruitment?

7. How does this organization relate to its environment? Is production harming or aiding the environment? How does this organization impact on the community? Does it have a relationship to the world around?

There are several ways to find the information needed to "diagnose" the stage of the organization:

  • By observation: observing people at work and in meetings, watching communication patterns, watching the explicit and implicit rules and norms gives invaluable information to the work group.
  • By reading the existing files: learning about the history and changes, reading memos and other important documents. What information is available to whom?
  • By interviews: This might give insight into areas not publicly talked about. Learning how people really feel, in particular interviewing people who are thinking about leaving or have left, will give valuable information about the organization. [See the article on exit interviews in this edition of CG.]
  • Talking with customers and suppliers will give insights on how others perceive the organization.
See other articles from this issue: #029 July - August - 1990