Speaking the language of the bottom-line: The metaphor of "managing diversity"

Erika L. Kirby, Lynn M. Harter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


This study explores the metaphor of managing diversity and its related discourses that dominate current business communication about the changing workforce. We examine the language employed in practitioner-oriented texts and consultant websites on diversity. We first illustrate the characteristics of the managerial metaphor, including the emphasis on achieving competitive advantage and a "quick-fix" orientation toward improving managerial competencies regarding diversity. We then analyze the implications of the managerial metaphor in terms of (a) whose interests are emphasized by the metaphor, (b) whose interests are (potentially) marginalized by the metaphor, (c) how the metaphor system relates to power and economic interests, (d) how different metaphors present alternative positions, and (e) implications for business communication. We contend that language that constitutes individuals as resources emphasizes managerial and economic interests and potentially marginalizes human and ethical aspects of diversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-49
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Business Communication
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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