Exploring public management and diversity in a single embedded case-study
: Developing new theories and strategies for cultural diversity management in German public administrations

  • Stefan Hank

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The public sector of Germany is presently debating and addressing a number of aspects of what is called ‘intercultural sensitivity’, reinforced by a significant trend in the strategic development of Cultural Diversity Management (CDM) in German public sector organisations (Gesemann & Roth, 2009; Krell, 2009). However, there is a current lack of a theoretical framework that transcends the original business-case model of diversity management so that it may be applicable to the needs of public administration. Thus, in contrast with the mainstream business-case-philosophy, the current study concentrates on the perspective of ‘social justice’. It aims to develop a conceptual framework for a ‘public management case for diversity’ oriented towards the social responsibility of assuring equal treatment and avoiding discrimination, especially since the public sector is, in principle, subject to equal treatment (Footnote 1). Referring to the role of the state, this study, therefore, posits two main arguments: first, based on fundamental duties, public administrations generally must ensure all its citizens that they can access, unhindered, jobs in public administrations and have suitable and appropriate representation in government; second, the concerned government should guarantee all its citizens barrier-free access to all public services without any discrimination, as a matter of social justice or equity.Existing literature shows the shortcomings of the theoretical analyses of diversity initiatives in German’s public sector organisations (Köppel et al., 2007; Süß and Kleiner, 2005). In particular, concepts and perceptions of diversity management, ignore or at least downgrade the dimensions of social justice and equity which, it is argued here, are the special focus of public sector organisations. Against this background, the current study investigates the local administration of Hamm in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, as a single case study. The study observes and evaluates existing diversity measures and leadership practice across 7 Citizens’ Service Offices to analyse key themes and to determine factors for the strategic implementation of CDM. This research intends to underline the organisational motivation for CDM, and examine the important influences wrought by organisationally pre-defined‘acculturation strategies’ that determine the cultural and value-based orientation and implementation of these diversity strategies. The study, therefore, focuses on the organisational acculturation strategy and the (hitherto missing) understanding of existing equality and anti-discrimination policies, which have been the explicit and implicit basis for public service management.Findings of this study show that various personal attitudes, viewpoints and perspectives greatly influence the approach and implementation of CDM. As a result, approaches of CDM are decisively influenced by existing or pre-defined acculturation strategies reflecting these attitudes, viewpoints and perspectives,which in turn are classified and can be understood according to certain theories of sociology and social policy. Subsequently, the findings show strong evidence that a more fundamental or abstract discussion is needed for the existing and already applied theoretical concepts for promoting equal treatment and anti discrimination measures, since, in practice, there is a lot of uncertainty among the employees about the meaning behind these key terms. Developing this theme, the study concludes with a broad strategy for introducing CDM, requiring a fully articulated theoretical base for CDM which is distinctive for public sector organisations, and which constructively but critically engages with the above personal attitudes, viewpoints and perspectives.

    (Footnote 1) I.e. public sector organisations have to assure different groups that their workforces are representing the interests of their citizens/service-users equally. Further, the equal treatment requirement is referring to legal obligations in German Public Law and Employment Law in general
    Date of AwardJun 2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSteve Smith (Supervisor) & Sarah Oerton (Supervisor)

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