How to Manage the Paradoxes of Organization?

In this section we discuss possible ways to lead an organization through paradox. First, we consider the need to switch habitual interpretations and consider why solutions may be reframed as problems. Next, we consider the need to embrace the tensions resulting from the transition from hierarchical to agile/less hierarchical (Lee & Edmondson, 2017). Finally, we consider the role of supporting actors.

Solutions Becoming Problems

Because organizational policies are defined at the top level of the organization by the elites that lead it, what and how what is decided at this level tends to cascade to more micro levels as well. CEO personality for example, has been found to impact organizational culture (O’Reilly III, Caldwell, Chatman & Doerr, 2014). In the opposite direction, deeply entrenched, hegemonic organizational narratives, such as that which Ely and Padavic called the work/family narrative, contribute to perpetuating a situation that nobody admitted supporting and that may be hard to change.

In the case studied by Ely and Padavic, this narrative assumed that long work hours were an imperative in a professional sendees firm; however, in order to give its female employees time to take care of their families, the organization created flexible measures that allowed women to accommodate their time to their personal schedules. Women who used the measures, however, were considered insufficiently devoted to work and did not progress. The authors explain that the problem lies above all in the long work hours culture that makes everybody suffer but that imposes more constraints over women. In a culture in which you make your pay from 9 to 5 and earn your bonus and promotion from 5 to 9, males that are either disencumbered or disencumber their selves of family responsibilities will prosper and establish the norm.

In summary, in order to create gender balance, the organization was accentuating gender imbalance which was defended as inevitable on meritorious grounds. The organization thus accepted the dilemma as something that could not be overcome. As these authors show, sometimes it is possible that, in a Watzlawickian formulation, the problem is not the problem but the way we think about the problem (Watzlawick, Weakland, & Fisch, 1974).

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