The Worker #3 | 2nd March 2020

Hey Colleague,


Welcome to your dose of Diversity First content.

1. Service NSW Ethnographic Fieldwork

I am pleased to report I have commenced fieldwork in a large NSW government organisation, Service NSW. The research utilises ethnographic methods to identify and explain the complexities of organisational culture, cultural change and identity as well as interpret the organisation's broader efforts in fostering diversity and inclusion. Ethnography is the best methodology for this research because it allows for a deeper interpretative lens of informants which is particularly relevant here as organisations create a world which transforms the individuals who join it. This is implicit in its characterisation as a bonded entity. As Cohen (1994) argued, most organisational studies have depicted individuals in isolation from their social contexts, abstracting out the organisational persona from the individual's self; however, failure to acknowledge the self as authorial distorts this relationship. Instead of seeing the organisational member as being drawn by the organisation out of his or her self, we can see the organisation as incorporated into the individual's social world. In many respects, it is necessary to rehumanise our view of organisations by recognising that they are composed of individuals - active agents who develop their relationships and largely determine their movements through different social milieux. It is a great honour to lead this research project, in which I study the authorial voices of Service NSW employees.

Cohen, Anthony (1994). Self consciousness : an alternative anthropology of identity. London; New York: Routledge.

2. Upcoming presentation of interest

I am a keynote speaker at Aventedge's upcoming Leadership and Culture Masterclass. I will be presenting on the topic of "How well do you understand your organisational culture?"  


Event Details

Aventedge | Organisational Culture Masterclass

20–21 May 2020

Melbourne, VIC


Here is a brief overview of my keynote speech:


My presentation focuses on the complexities surrounding research paradigms of organisational cultures, examining what leaders tend to find concerning their organisation’s culture – and what they miss – when choosing questionnaires over sounder methods of cultural analysis.


Research paradigms in the study of organisational culture have evolved significantly since the 1980s. To this day, research consultants who proclaim themselves "culture experts" typically view organisational culture from the top down, that is, from the perspective of senior leadership, in an attempt to control culture explicitly and implicitly. Functionalist and integrationist literature can be found in journals and in leading business magazines such as the Harvard Business Review. Problematically, the emphasis placed on seeking organisational consensus through developing strong corporate ideologies (espousing values and behaviours that seemingly represent "excellence") may lead to the suppression of valuable workplace subcultures. Such subcultures offer enormous opportunities for organisations. The suppression of organisational subcultures is more prominent in some industry sectors than others. 


Research from the top down, through its very design, suppresses important and often vital viewpoints within organisations. However, participant observation, which is the anthropologist's approach to analysing systems of cultural meaning, brings to the surface rich, often valuable, perspectives that could hold the key to transforming unhealthy patterns of thinking and behaviours demonstrated by the dominant coalition within the organisation. From this perspective, those who suppress organisational subcultures may compromise their value. Even deviant subcultures offer extraordinary revelations about implicit cultural meanings within organisations. Implicit cultural knowledge – tacit insights and meanings that sit below the threshold of consciousness – can safely surface, given the necessary support and opportunity for expression.


Concurrently, subcultural expression may increase cognitive diversity within the organisation. Such insights could be one answer to the problems associated with cognitive biases in workplaces. Moreover, growing workplace heterogeneity should lead to better exploration of subcultural perspectives, because organisations will soon have little choice if they wish to remain competitive. Australia's workforce heterogeneity will increase, and there is no reverse gear for this process.


To support my argument, I shall present sections of the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (the Hayne Report), posing questions for the audience’s reflection and outlining how the suppression of workplace subcultures may lead to the decline of the corporate image and, possibly, the organisation itself.


To purchase tickets, click here


3. International Women's Day Great Debate

In 2019, I was honoured to be involved in the Institute of Managers and Leaders – International Women's Day Great Debate. All debaters spoke with immense passion. The topic was: "Her aspiration needs his cooperation." I am pleased to report that my Negative Team won the debate. You might like to watch my session here


If you would like to purchase tickets for this year's event, click here.

4. Worth thinking about...

People who do not 'fit in' by social characteristics to homogenous management groups tend to be clustered in those parts of management with least uncertainty. They are found in increasing numbers away from the top, and they are found in staff positions where they serve as technical specialists including non-discretionary positions that bear the least pressure to close the circle: closer to the bottom, in more routinised functions and in "expert" rather than decision-making roles. They are also found in roles that are administrative rather than line management and in functions where they are removed from interdependent social networks of the corporation's principal operations. 


Kanter (1977:55)