Purpose: To enhance their innovation and reputation, many organizations introduce programs that are intended to attract, retain and support diverse communities. Yet, these programs are often unsuccessful, partly because explicit references to diversity tend to evoke defensive reactions in employees from the dominant culture. To circumvent this problem, the purpose of this paper is to explore the hypothesis that individuals tend to be more receptive to diversity whenever they experience meaning in life. Furthermore, four workplace characteristics – informational justice, a manageable workload, equality in status and a compelling vision of the future – should foster this meaning in life.
Design/methodology/approach: To assess these possibilities, 177 employees completed a survey that assessed workplace practices, meaning in life and openness to diversity.
Findings: The results showed that informational justice, a manageable workload and a compelling vision were positively associated with openness to other cultures, constituencies and perspectives, and these relationships were partly or wholly mediated by meaning in life.
Originality/value: These findings imply that leaders might be able to foster an openness to diversity, but without explicit references to this diversity, circumventing the likelihood of defensive reactions. Specifically, a program that simultaneously encourages transparent communication, diminishes workload and clarifies the vision or aspirations of the future may represent an inexpensive but powerful means to foster an openness to diversity.