Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Management Communication Quarterly 2016, Vol. 30(1) 59–83.



Copyright © 2015 Jennifer J. Mease. Published by SAGE Publications. Used by permission.


This article addresses how diversity consultants manage the dual demands of social justice and organizational goals or priorities. I suggest that navigating this “discursive paradox” is one of—if not the—defining feature of diversity work. To investigate this discursive paradox, I analyze diversity work as a process (rather than a collection of products) as evidenced in interviews with 19 diversity consultants. The results offer two derivative discursive paradoxes that emerged in consultants’ talk about diversity work: the tension between broad and narrow constructions of human differences and the tension between emphasizing change at the organizational and individual levels. Rather than framing these tensions as inherently problematic, I examine how consultants use them to create possibilities for change. Consequently, this work offers a promising approach for understanding and facilitating other forms of socially motivated organizational change, such as organizational sustainability or health and well-being campaigns.