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Developing Leaders in the Public Sector: Diversity in the Workplace and Social Equity

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Dan Krejci
October 3, 2014

Column 3: Diversity in the Workplace and Social Equity

In the first column of this series, I discussed the various ways people perceive and react to confrontation, which is important because how people’s perceptions and reactions to confrontation is one of the most important challenges leaders face. In the second column, I linked these concepts with leadership and ethics. In this final column I continue the discourse on leadership development by adding two more ingredients necessary for educating public administrators—knowledge of diversity in the workplace and a sense of social equity.

A Newer Public Administration

Krejci octIn The New Public Administration, H. George Frederickson notes that the relationship between social equity and new public administration is social equity promotes equality in government and government services by making government more responsible to the citizenry for policy decisions, including the well-being of minorities in our society.

In order to assist in the promotion of this concept, we must continue promoting workplace diversity. I am not referring to a diverse workplace in the sense that an organization has a diverse population. Having a diverse population does not mean an organization will promote or achieve a sense of social equity. If the organizational culture does not include its diverse workforce in the decision making process, then it loses its potential for growth. If a diverse organization promotes assimilation over inclusion, then all the organization will accomplish is a groupthink mentality.

Diversity in the Workplace and Social Equity

I use two main texts for teaching Diversity in the Workplace. These texts are written from different perspectives—one focuses on issues of concern for public administrators and the public administration profession (Mitchell F. Rice, Diversity and Public Administration: Theory, Issues, and Perspectives, 2010), and the other focuses on diversity from a sociological perspective (Richard D. Bucher, Diversity Consciousness: Opening Our Minds to People, Cultures, and Opportunities, 2010).

Bucher’s discussion of diversity is not solely relegated to the workplace. He argues for us to raise our diversity consciousness since factors like technology and globalization are changing our cultural landscape. Bucher further notes that even though globalization and technology have increased our awareness of diversity, organizations still have problems incorporating diversity due to what sociologists refer to as the cultural lag—where one part of our culture is not keeping up with the rest. White’s edited work (mentioned above) posits that public administration has made some progress, yet the progress has been slowed due in part to cultural lag. Before we are able to make further progress, we must grasp the sociological nature of diversity.

The other contributions to this volume noted the positive nature of diversity in the workplace and how organizations can function more efficiently and effectively by adopting diversity not only regarding the personnel in the organization, but also the organizational decision making process instead of forcing minorities to assimilate to the dominate organizational culture. The chapter most pertinent to this discussion is the one titled “Teaching Public Administration Education in the Postmodern Era: Connecting the Organizational Culture to Diversity and Social Equity.”

White notes the need for us to continue the move from public administration orthodoxy to a new public administration in the postmodern era as noted by Fox and Miller in Postmodern Public Administration: Towards Discourse, which actually harkens back to the discourse presented by Frederickson. White even acknowledges, as did Frederickson and Fox and Miller, that public administrators do not live in a vacuum, are not value-neutral—and with the increased call for transparency and accountability in government—social equity has become part of the foundation of the discipline—along with efficiency, effectiveness, and a sense of ethics. Therefore, I posit a move towards a newer public administration—one emphasizing the reshaping our methods of educating twenty-first century administrators. This education must provide public administrators with the necessary tools necessary in order to work in a more diverse society.

In order to be more effective in providing future administrators with the knowledge and skill sets necessary to be successful, we must continue to promote the concept of diversity and effectively link our public administration courses. Public administration courses are too focused on specialization instead of providing a more comprehensive view of each subject and how they are interrelated. Our approach to teaching the discipline is to break down its various skill sets and knowledge into fragmented topics; then teach the fragments (research methods, public finance, organizational theory and others). We need an approach that is a synthesis—one that brings the fragments together in order to provide a comprehensive view of the discipline. We must rethink how our courses are presented. Each course needs to be related to the others and leadership, ethics, diversity and social equity must be an integral part of the curriculum in order to move us towards a newer public administration.

Conclusion

In this series of articles on developing leaders in the public sector, I covered several important areas: confrontation, leadership and ethics, diversity in the workplace and social equity. In addition, I posited a move toward a newer public administration. In this discourse, I noted one indicator of achieving this newer public administration is the total embrace of diversity in the workplace and social equity. Yet to achieve this newer public administration, we must acknowledge several important factors.

First, people perceive and react to confrontation in various ways. Second, leaders must be able to deal with the ways people react to confrontation. They must acquire a repertoire of leadership styles in order to be better prepared to lead. Third, a leader’s behavior must be ethically grounded in order to promote transparency and accountability within the organization. Fourth, public administrators must accept and promote the concepts of diversity in the workplace along with social equity because by embracing the principles of diversity discussed in this article moves us towards social equity; thereby promoting the newer public administration.


Author: Dan Krejci, associate professor, is a faculty member of the NASPAA accredited MPA Program at Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama. He received his MPA Degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and his MA and PhD in Political Science from Texas Tech University. He can be reached at [email protected]

 

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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