(mis)Management of multiple tensions and coexisting conflicting dualities during restructuring: a paradox theory perspective from an emerging economy
Organizational scholars are intrigued about stakeholders who propose multiple and conflicting ideas about what is good for their organization. Such contradictions are called paradoxical tensions. Although researchers have singled these out for analysis, focusing only on individual tensions prevents scrutiny of multiple paradoxical tensions that simultaneously emerge and how effectively organizations can manage them. In complex environments – especially during an organizational restructuring – multiple and interrelated tensions occur. Therefore, the objective in this paper is to investigate how organizations create multiple paradoxical tensions and how the combined effect of such tensions can constrain organizations during restructuring. The authors thus aim to help managers think reflectively and to plan interventions to deal with issues arising from restructuring through the lens of paradox theory.
The authors adopted purposive sampling for an archival research-based case study of a major restructuring of a leading IT firm in India in the decade 2009–2019. This study focused on the types of paradoxes created and the response of the organization to these during the restructure. The authors identified key events using public documents and news reports from that decade. They drew on two sources of data: mainstream media coverage and third-party documents about the company. The latter included monographs and academic publications written by critics, business historians and design and management scholars.
The findings address the gaps in the literature about how reorganizing during a restructure shapes the contradictions that lead to tensions and coexisting conflicting dualities, creating paradoxes. This study provides the reader with deeper insights into belonging, organizing, learning and performing tensions – core to paradox theory – along with their short- and long-term implications for organizational restructuring. The study demonstrates organizational responses to paradox and its practical implications for managers. The paradoxical nature of cultural–structural tensions in Indian organizations continues to be researched but, by focusing on paradox theory, the authors have opened doors for future research.
Although there is no dispute that effective management of tensions can facilitate organizational performance, contradictory demands that lead to tensions have only intensified as organizational environments become more global, dynamic and competitive. Paradox theory is thus valuable for understanding tensions between equally valid principles, inferences and insights. Although this paper is based on a case study, the framework proposed here can form the basis for theoretical generalizability within certain limitations. Because organizations face similar paradoxical situations under competing demands during restructuring and because paradoxes are becoming increasingly prevalent in organizations, the authors expect their propositions to apply in other cases of restructuring. However, the authors would like to caution that the model developed here should be tested and refined in other contexts to more fully establish its validity and generalizability.
Thomas, N., Kaduba Mokale, R. and Selvaraj, P. (2021). (mis)Management of multiple tensions and coexisting conflicting dualities during restructuring: a paradox theory perspective from an emerging economy. Journal of Organizational Change Management 34(5), 860-873. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOCM-10-2020-0321