Integrating Dialectical and Paradox Perspectives on Managing Contradictions in Organizations

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit


Publication Date



We present a typology and process model that integrate dialectical and paradox perspectives on managing contradictions in organizations. Whereas paradox research depicts tensions between contradictory elements as irreconcilable and best managed through acceptance and synergy, the dialectical perspective portrays the relationship of such elements as adversarial and transformed through conflict. Our integrated typology and process model account for both dialectical and paradox approaches to managing contradictions and also identify two approaches, assimilation and adjustment, which combine the two. The model also identifies a key contingency, the expected distribution of power between contradictory elements, as a key influence on actors’ approaches to managing contradictions. For paradox researchers our integrated model emphasizes the need for more attention to the political, institutional, and social contexts of contradictions, practices for managing conflict, and transformation of organizational contradictions. Our integrated model suggests that dialectics researchers pay attention to the strategies managers use to productively manage tensions between contradictory elements, take a contingent view of transformation, and recognize that acceptance of contradiction may play a role in transformation. Hence our integrated model suggests a broadened agenda for both paradox and dialectics researchers.


This article was originally published in Organization Studies. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

Due to copyright restrictions, this article is not available for free download from ScholarWorks @ CWU.


Organization Studies


© The Author(s) 2016