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

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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
2 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.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date4 Jul 2020
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2020
EventEuropean Group of Organization Studies (EGOS), Colloquium, Hamburg (virtual), 2020 - Virtual, Hamburg, Germany
Duration: 2 Jul 20204 Jul 2020


ConferenceEuropean Group of Organization Studies (EGOS), Colloquium, Hamburg (virtual), 2020
Internet address


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  • Paradox Practice Track: Research-Practice Panel

    Rikke Kristine Nielsen (Panel member), Danielle Bjerre Lyndgaard (Panel member), Garima Sharma (Moderator), Michael Pingel Hansen (Panel member), Natalie Slawinski (Panel member) & Angela Greco (Moderator)

    18 Mar 2022

    Activity: Talks and presentationsTalks and presentations in private or public companies


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