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Building bridges is just the beginning: on reconciling diversity and identity

15 November 2011

Inaugural lecture: Ms. S. Otten, 16.15 uur, Aula Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Title: Building bridges is just the beginning: on reconciling diversity and identity

Faculty: Behavioural and Social Sciences

Countries like Germany and the Netherlands have heavily debated migration and the integration of immigrants, lately. Some politicians straightforwardly stated “the multicultural society has failed” and hastened to conclude that migration had to be restricted, and migrants had to assimilate. In her inaugural speech, Sabine Otten wants to question both the pessimistic conclusions about the multicultural society, and the promotion of assimilation to the dominant culture as a means to manage cultural diversity successfully.

In her speech, Otten will focus specifically on the issue of workplace integration in the Netherlands. Many Dutch organizations are, at least to a certain extent, culturally diverse. Is diversity at the workplace associated with positive work outcomes? Or, to put it differently, does diversity work? While in homogeneous groups similarity can be the building block for group cohesion, identification, and trust, in diverse, heterogeneous groups, there is the necessity to reconcile diversity and identity. Hence, it is relevant to create conditions under which both majority and minority members feel similarly included and appreciated in the organization.

Relying on the metaphor of building bridges, this inaugural speech will address recent data on the functioning and degree of inclusion and exclusion experienced by minority and majority employees. Amongst others, these findings show

-         … that employees from cultural minorities fare similarly well as their indigenous Dutch colleagues;

-         … that organizational ideologies focusing explicitly on the added value of diversity do enhance the functioning of all employees;

-         … that employees’ functioning at work relates to feelings of belonging and being appreciated, but also to the perceived room for uniqueness;.

-         … that encouraging team members to reflect on their individual relevance in the team helps especially minority members to identify and to feel appreciated in the team.

In sum, Otten will argue that if organizations succeed to create an environment that allows employees to belong and to be different, then workplace integration implies more than having built and opened a bridge. Besides allowing minorities to get access to domains recently reserved for the majority, there might be positive change on either side of the bridge.

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.40 p.m.

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