Exploring the unintended consequences of managerial ‘paradox sharing’ with subordinates and superiors. The case of the Royal Danish Defence

Rikke Kristine Nielsen, Michael Pingel Hansen

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftPaper uden forlag/tidsskriftForskningpeer review

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This paper connects with the ongoing debate on the dark side of paradoxes and with the EGOS paradox subtheme call for papers on unintended paradoxes posing the question of how responses to paradoxical tensions by some actors give rise to unintended or negative consequences with negative repercussions for other actors. We report from case study in the Royal Danish Defence whose leadership philosophy, training and evaluation is based paradoxes. Our analysis shows that unintended consequences are salient, when: 1) paradoxes are perceived as having been delegated too far down the hierarchical line unaccompanied by the necessary resources to pursue a “both-and”-strategy; or 2) when a both-and approach has been communicated from upper level management, yet the experience further down the line is that the approach is in fact one-sided. In addition, a third typical outcome was positive unintended consequences in the form of the unexpected activation of paradox coping strategies by subordinates to counter unintended consequences of paradox coping strategies at higher hierarchical levels. Our ethnographic study points beyond our original focal point of managerial ‘paradox sharing’ with subordinates and superiors in “paradox trios” giving rise to suggestions of a “managerial paradox eco-system”-perspective exploring paradoxes relationally, i.e. focusing on the fact that individual actors’ paradox coping strategies influence and are influence by other actors’ coping space and available coping strategy repertoire. We also suggest that not only inclusion and identification of relevant stakeholders in the managerial paradox eco-system is relevant, but also that the “paradox readiness” of these stakeholders plays a significant role.
Publikationsdato4 jul. 2020
Antal sider17
StatusUdgivet - 4 jul. 2020
BegivenhedEuropean Group of Organization Studies (EGOS), Colloquium, Hamburg (virtual), 2020 - Virtual, Hamburg, Tyskland
Varighed: 2 jul. 20204 jul. 2020


KonferenceEuropean Group of Organization Studies (EGOS), Colloquium, Hamburg (virtual), 2020


  • Organizational paradox
  • Leadership paradox
  • Royal Danish Defence
  • Paradox theory
  • Paradox stakeholders
  • Paradox eco-system
  • Leadership
  • Management


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