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  Exploring the Paradox-Emotion Nexus in Organizational Life

   Nottingham Business School

  ,  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

In organizations, individuals often confront paradoxical tensions—contradictory yet interdependent demands that persist over time (Quinn & Cameron, 1988; Smith & Lewis, 2011). For instance, creative professionals stive to create both artistic and economic values (Eikhof & Haunschild, 2007), while team members wrestle with the exploration-exploitation tension (Smith, 2014). Senior managers, too, grapple with the dual challenge of profit maximization and social responsibility (Margolis & Walsh, 2003), cooperative competition (Raza-Ullah et al., 2014), and granting employees autonomy while retaining control (Sundaramurthy & Lewis, 2003). Although the extant literature on paradoxes acknowledges that intensified forms of these tensions can evoke anxiety, frustration, and even paralyzed feelings (e.g., Schad et al., 2016; Cunha et al., 2023), a comprehensive understanding of how these paradoxes are intertwined with emotions and the likely performance implications cross multiple levels (e.g., at individual, team, organizational, inter-organizational) remains limited.

Likewise, research in psychology and emotions recognizes that individuals often experience complex emotional dynamics including emotional ambivalence (Pratt & Doucet, 2000), emotional dissonance (Diestel & Schmidt, 2011), and emotional labour (Grandey, 2000), particularly when engaged in the pursuit of paradoxical logics, demands, or goals (see Ashforth et al., 2014 and Rothman et al., 2017 for more details). Yet, a systematic investigation of why, how, when, and at what levels paradoxes generate such emotional complexity, and how the paradox-emotion interplay shapes outcomes at individual, team, and organizational levels, is lacking.

Hence, this research project invites proposals for an interdisciplinary approach that bridges the gap between paradoxes and emotions. By integrating insights from both domains and utilizing qualitative and quantitative methods, this project aims to uncover the underlying mechanisms behind paradox-induced emotions, their manifestations, implications, and management across various organizational levels.

Business & Management (5) Psychology (31)

Funding Notes

This is a self-funded PhD project for UK and International applicants.


Ashforth, B. E., Rogers, K. M., Pratt, M. G., & Pradies, C. (2014). Ambivalence in organizations: A multilevel approach. Organization Science, 25(5), 1453-1478.
Cunha, M. P., Rego, A., Berti, M., & Simpson, A. V. (2023). Understanding pragmatic paradoxes: When contradictions become paralyzing and what to do about it. Business Horizons, 66(4), 453-462.
Diestel, S., & Schmidt, K-H. 2011. Costs of simultaneous coping with emotional dissonance and self-control demands at work: Results from two German samples. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96: 643–653.
Eikhof, D. R., & Haunschild, A. (2007). For art's sake! Artistic and economic logics in creative production. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 28(5), 523-538.
Elfenbein, H. A. (2007). 7 Emotion in organizations: a review and theoretical integration. Academy of Management Annals, 1(1), 315-386.
Grandey, A. A. (2000). Emotional regulation in the workplace: A new way to conceptualize emotional labor. Journal of occupational health psychology, 5(1), 95.
Grandey, A. A., & Gabriel, A. S. (2015). Emotional labor at a crossroads: Where do we go from here? Annu. Rev. Organ. Psychol. Organ. Behav., 2(1), 323-349.
Keller, J., Loewenstein, J., & Yan, J. (2017). Culture, conditions and paradoxical frames. Organization Studies, 38(3-4), 539-560.
Margolis, J. D., & Walsh, J. P. 2003. Misery loves companies: Rethinking social initiatives by business. Administrative Science Quarterly, 48: 268–305.
Pratt, M. G., & Doucet, L. (2000). 11 Ambivalent Feelings in Organizational Relationships. Emotion in organizations, 204.
Quinn, R. E., & Cameron, K. S. (1988). Paradox and transformation: Toward a theory of change in organization and management. Ballinger Publishing Co/Harper & Row Publishers.
Rothman, N. B., Pratt, M. G., Rees, L., & Vogus, T. J. (2017). Understanding the dual nature of ambivalence: Why and when ambivalence leads to good and bad outcomes. Academy of Management Annals, 11(1), 33-72.
Schad, J., Lewis, M. W., Raisch, S., & Smith, W. K. (2016). Paradox research in management science: Looking back to move forward. Academy of Management Annals, 10(1), 5-64.
Smith, W. K. (2014). Dynamic decision making: A model of senior leaders managing strategic paradoxes. Academy of management Journal, 57(6), 1592-1623.
Sundaramurthy, C., & Lewis, M. (2003). Control and collaboration: Paradoxes of governance. Academy of Management Review, 28(3), 397-415.

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