Executive Search as Ethnosociality: A cross-cultural comparison

Charlotte Holgersson, Janne Tienari, Susan Carita Meriläinen, Regine Bendl

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7 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, we explore how executive search consultants in Austria, Finland and Sweden address ethnicity. Our findings suggest that while consultants working in these different sociocultural settings may attribute different meanings to ethnicity, they share a tendency to evade questions of ethnicity with regard to the search process. We specify three discursive practices that serve to
eliminate questions of ethnicity from executive search: constructing whiteness as self-evident, constructing varieties of whiteness (articulating deficiency and lack for those not belonging to Us), and distancing responsibility for the current situation to clients and society. In view of these findings, we argue that executive search can be understood as an arena for ethnosociality that stops cultural diversity at the door of management suites and serves to undermine efforts to promote cross-cultural understanding in organizations. Our study indicates that sustaining whiteness as a privileged ethnicity takes multiple forms. While executive search consultants play an important role in these processes, it is suggested that they inherit a more fundamental problem in
society and they have few opportunities to change the ethnic status quo at the top.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-169
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Cross Cultural Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Field of science

  • Business and management

Citation for this output