The Lived Experience of Paradox: How Individuals Navigate Tensions during the Pandemic Crisis

Camille Pradies, Simone Carmine, Joe Cheal, Miguel Pina e Cunha, Medhanie Gaim, Anne Keegan, Ella Miron-Spektor, Rikke Kristine Nielsen, Vanessa Pouthier, Garima Sharma, Jennifer Sparr, Russ Vince, Joshua Keller

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In this article, we present seven short essays that focus on various aspects of the lived experience during the pandemic crisis through a paradox theoretical lens, providing new insights on the pandemic while also using the pandemic experience to push the boundaries of paradox theory. Bednarek and Lê discuss how the boundary between work and life has become blurred yet our sense of them opposed has peaked. To them, the pandemic invites us to expand our understanding of the concept of balance central to paradox theory. The next three essays focus on how managers shape individuals’ experience with tensions during the pandemic. Sparr discusses how leaders have been tasked to provide a clear vision to their employees while themselves immersed in fog, thereby creating tensions that are difficult for both leaders and employees to manage. Nielsen, Cheal and Pradies discuss how leaders can communicate to followers during the pandemic in a way that resonates cognitively and emotionally with them. Keegan and colleagues discuss how latent tensions between profits and health have surfaced during the pandemic, requiring human resources managers to create innovative solutions under constraint. Miron-Spektor unpacks how a paradox approach enables us to understand the ways in which employees can respond to tensions stemming from the pandemic. In particular, she stresses how a paradox mindset is even more critical during crises than during normal times. Finally, the essays by Gaim & Cunha and by Pouthier & Vince provide us with warnings. Gaim and Cunha discuss how because of power dynamics between management and labour, we must be careful about the dark side of a paradox approach. Pouthier & Vince remind us that the tensions employees experience during the pandemic is quintessentially an emotional experience and should be examined as such.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Management Inquiry
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)154-167
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • organizational behavior
  • paradox
  • tensions

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