The use of quota systems to improve demographic diversity in organisations is receiving mixed responses from commentators. This article demonstrates that the normative success and failure of a quota system is contingent upon the multi-level and relational dynamics of the diversity management intervention, which uses the tool of quotas. Focusing on a quota system, which seeks to promote localisation of the workforce in the United Arab Emirates, this article presents a longitudinal case study. We analyse the multi-level dynamics of the implementation of the quota system to show how the interdependence of these levels influenced the outcome of the quota programme. The study also accounts for the complexity of normative assessment of the quota-based diversity intervention by illustrating how a diverse set of vested interests, a multiplicity of discourses and the interplay of schemas of change, support and resistance between managers and employees come into play.