Reconsidering Virtuality Through a Paradox Lens

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Radostina K. Purvanova of Drake University
and Renata Kenda of Tilburg University. They recently published an article in Group and Organization Management entitled “Paradoxical Virtual Leadership: Reconsidering Virtuality Through a Paradox Lens” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Purvanova speaks about the motivation and impact of this research:]


What motivated you to pursue this research?

The academic literature largely paints virtuality in negative overtones, whereas more and more organizations embrace technology-driven work practices, such as virtual work and virtual teaming. This begs the question: If virtuality is so bad, then why do organizations continue to “go virtual”? Our central motivation in pursuing this research was to advance a new theoretical lens through which to view virtuality – that of paradox. Our paradoxical perspective details both the costs and the benefits that virtuality offers organizations; furthermore, it easily lends itself to practical applications, especially applications in the area of virtual team leadership. In our paper, we discuss how virtual leaders can find synergies between the various challenges and opportunities their virtual teams face. Specifically, our perspective suggests that virtual leaders should blend various, and even contradictory, leadership skills and behaviors, to address virtuality’s competing and paradoxical demands. Hence, our paradoxical virtual leadership model emphasizes the ideas of balance and synergy. This stands in contrast to traditional leadership models, such as transformational, relational, inspirational, and others, which advocate for an increased emphasis on such leadership functions in a virtual context.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

Our article focuses on three main aspects of virtuality— technology dependence, geographic dispersion, and human capital—and identifies seven paradoxical tensions that virtual teams face. For example, one of the tensions that virtual teams experience due to their technology dependence is the touch tension: virtual team members’ interactions are simultaneously impersonal but also less biased. Practically, then, the role of the virtual team leader is to acknowledge and balance the two sides of this tension (and all other tensions their virtual team might face). Our article provides specific suggestions on how to tackle these paradoxical strains. Briefly, virtual leaders must first adopt a both-and mindset which would allow them to perceive virtuality through a paradox lens, and see both its challenges and its opportunities. Next, virtual leaders must devise strategies for simultaneously addressing competing demands. For example, in the case of the touch tension, a leader can encourage more personal and friendly communication, while at the same time implementing strategies to keep interactions professional.
Practically, then, our model suggests several applications. First, it suggests that organizations should select individuals for virtual leader assignments who are more likely to develop a synergistic leadership style. Second, organizations should train virtual leaders to reframe their assumptions about virtuality, seeing virtuality as a force to be harnessed, not feared. Finally, organizations should also instill a paradoxical view of virtuality in virtual team members, not just in virtual leaders, either through selection, or through training.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

In keeping with the core question that provoked this research—If virtuality is so bad, then why do organizations continue to “go virtual”?—our advice to virtuality scholars is to focus their efforts on better aligning our science with the practice of virtual work and virtual teaming. Describing just the challenges or just the opportunities of virtuality only tackles one side of this complex issue. In contrast, understanding the interdependencies between virtuality’s costs and benefits allows scholars to advance and test theories with a stronger grounding in reality, and allows organizations to truly harness the power of paradox.

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The 2017 GOM Best Paper Awards

gomb_43_4_coverWe would like to congratulate the following winners for their achievements! Below are the abstracts of each outstanding article. Please note that the full articles will be free to read for a limited time.

Group & Organization Management 2017 Best Conceptual Paper Award:

Congratulations to authors, Anastasia Sapegina and Antoinette Weibel of the University of St. Gallen for their outstanding article, “The Good, the Not So Bad, and the Ugly of Competitive Human Resource Practices: A Multidisciplinary Conceptual Framework.”

hiring-1977803_960_720.jpgHuman resource (HR) practices used to inject internal competition into the workplace are the subject of heated debates in business practice; this is however not the case in the field of human resource management (HRM) research. In this article, we first augment previous research in the field to offer an initial conceptualization of competitive HR practices. We then develop a conceptual framework that explains the processes and conditions that drive and determine the impact of competitive HR practices on employees at work. Blending insights from social comparison theory and uncertainty research, we theorize a set of conditions that specify when competitive HR practices unfold their “dark” side, and when the “not so bad” or even “a good side” of competitive HR practices might emerge.

Group & Organization Management 2017 Best Empirical Paper Award:

Congratulations to authors, Nale Lehmann-Willenbrock of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Ming Ming Chiu of Purdue University, Zhike Lei of Georgetown University, and Simone Kauffeld of Technische Universität Braunschweig, for their outstanding article, “Understanding Positivity Within Dynamic Team Interactions: A Statistical Discourse Analysis.”

170705-F-XX000-0004Positivity has been heralded for its individual benefits. However, how positivity dynamically unfolds within the temporal flow of team interactions remains unclear. This is an important oversight, as positivity can be key to team problem solving and performance. In this study, we examine how team micro-processes affect the likelihood of positivity occurring within dynamic team interactions. In doing so, we build on and expand previous work on individual positivity and integrate theory on temporal team processes, interaction rituals, and team problem solving. We analyze 43,139 utterances during the meetings of 43 problem-solving teams in two organizations. First, we find that the observed overall frequency of positivity behavior in a team is positively related to managerial ratings of team performance. Second, using statistical discourse analysis, we show that solution-focused behavior and previous positivity within the team interaction process increase the likelihood of subsequent positivity expressions, whereas positivity is less likely after problem-focused behavior. Dynamic speaker switches moderate these effects, such that interaction instances involving more speakers increase the facilitating effects of solutions and earlier positivity for subsequent positivity within team interactions. We discuss the theoretical and managerial implications of micro-level team positivity and its performance benefits.

Thank you for your outstanding contributions!

To explore this journal further, checkout the homepage!

HR Photo attributed to Free Photos.

Positivity Photo attributed to Free Photos.

Read the September Issue of Administrative Science Quarterly!

asqa_63_3_coverWe are pleased to announce that the September Issue of Administrative Science Quarterly is now available to read for a limited time.

Check out the editorial which discusses the ASQ Scholarly Award for Scholarly Contribution which was awarded to  Adam M. Kleinbaum for his article, “Organizational Misfits and the Origins of Brokerage in Intrafirm Networks.”

In the research article, “The Structural Origins of Unearned Status: How Arbitrary Changes in Categories Affect Status Position and Market Impact,” included in this issue, the relationship among status, actors’ quality, and market outcomes are discussed. You can find the abstract below.

customer-experience-3024488__340.jpgFocusing on the categorical nature of many status orderings, we examine the relationship among status, actors’ quality, and market outcomes. As markets evolve, the number of categories that structure them can increase, creating opportunities for new actors to be bestowed status, or it can decrease, dethroning certain actors from their superior standing. In both cases, gains and losses of status may occur without changes in actors’ quality. Because audiences rely on status signals to infer the value of market actors, these exogenously generated status shifts can translate into changes in how audiences perceive actors, resulting in benefits for unearned status gains and costs for unearned status losses. We find support for our hypotheses in a sample of equity analysts at U.S. brokerage firms. Using data on the coveted Institutional Investor magazine All-Star award, we find that analysts whose status increases because of a category addition see corresponding increases in the stock market’s response to their earnings estimates, while those who lose status see corresponding reductions. Our results suggest that the greater weight accorded to high-status actors may be misguided if that status occurs for structural reasons such as category changes rather than because of an actor’s own quality.

This intriguing study, “Anchored Personalization in Managing Goal Conflict between Professional Groups: The Case of U.S. Army Mental Health Care” delves into conflict between groups that pursue different goals. You can find the abstract below:

Mental-health-2313426_640Organizational life is rife with conflict between groups that pursue different goals, particularly when groups have strong commitments to professional identities developed outside the organization. I use data from a 30-month comparative ethnographic field study of four U.S. Army combat brigades to examine conflict between commanders who had a goal of fielding a mission-ready force and mental health providers who had a goal of providing rehabilitative mental health care to soldiers. All commanders and providers faced goal and identity conflict and had access to similar integrative mechanisms. Yet only those associated with two brigades addressed these conflicts in ways that accomplished the army’s superordinate goal of having both mission-ready and mentally healthy soldiers. Both successful brigades used what I call “anchored personalization” practices, which included developing personalized relations across groups, anchoring members in their home group identity, and co-constructing integrative solutions to conflict. These practices were supported by an organizational structure in which professionals were assigned to work with specific members of the other group, while remaining embedded within their home group. In contrast, an organizational structure promoting only anchoring in one’s home group identity led to failure when each group pursued its own goals at the expense of the other group’s goals. A structure promoting only personalization across groups without anchoring in one’s home group identity led to failure from cooptation by the dominant group. This study contributes to our understanding of how groups with strong professional identities can work together in service of their organization’s superordinate goals when traditional mechanisms fail.

To listen to the latest ASQ podcast click here.

Ranking photo attributed to Free Photos.

Mental Health photo attributed to Free Photos.

How Can Positive Practices in the Workplace Impact Teams?

men-1979261_960_720Dr. Perry Geue recently published an article in  The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, which is entitled “Positive Practices in the Workplace: Impact on Team Climate, Work Engagement, and Task Performance.” We are pleased to welcome Dr. Geue as a contributor and excited to announce that the findings will be free to access on our site for a limited time. Below Dr. Geue provides his insights regarding inspiration behind the research.

JABS_72ppiRGB_powerpointThe research study “Positive Practices in the Workplace: Impact on Team Climate, Work Engagement, and Task Performance” was inspired by an interest in positive work environments, both how they form and their effect in motivating employees toward exceptional performance. Many work environments, such as settings with intense service climates, like the rapidly-paced, routinized food preparation teams in this study, do not readily facilitate employee experiences of freedom, autonomy, and self-expression, which are key factors in employees finding meaning in their work and experiencing well-being in the workplace. A positive work environment, or PWE, is a social climate where employees are treated as positively as possible, one characterized by positive emotions, social inclusion, and quality connections between employees. How do such environments induce employee purpose and  performance in climates that are often hurried and highly structured?

A primary thrust of this study was to delineate how virtuous behaviors in the workplace, termed “positive practices” in the study, could potentially engender a PWE in a demanding service setting, and the effect of this climate on the engagement and performance of employees in work teams. Virtuous behaviors reflect employee actions that are inherently good, apart from instrumental purposes, and they represent the highest aspirations of the human condition. Do workplace behaviors that reflect employees doing good also lead to employees doing well? Can employee behaviors that are respectful, caring, compassionate, forgiving, inspiring, and meaningful in their intent toward others create a climate that is positive and elevating, as well as productive?

Intriguing significant relationships in the study suggest that employees feel more dedicated to and engaged in their work when they sense that work has purpose, significance, and meaning, and that a key to work meaningfulness is mutual interaction that promotes trust, respect, and confidence, where employees believe in each other, communicate the good they see in each other, and forgive each other’s mistakes. In an intensive team service climate, prosocial actions between employees that demonstrate appreciation, affirmation, and respect, could enhance work meaningfulness and lead to greater performance.

The present study impacts the way that managers perceive their role in the workplace. Rather than a posture of correction and control, managers should adopt affirming management practices that contribute to a more positive work environment. Such practices could include managers encouraging team members to exercise optimistic thinking and reinterpret challenges as opportunities, thus granting greater autonomy in creative problem solving, leading to meaningfulness in work. Managers could cultivate a culture of gratitude and appreciation in their work teams, leading team members in mutual respect and acknowledgment of their contributions, expressing thankfulness for accomplishments, and engendering virtuous cycles of honor. Managers could encourage and model forgiveness for miss-steps, engendering a safe psychological climate, viewing mistakes as opportunities for learning, and thus thwarting the blame game that is so demoralizing in the work context. Such positive practices could transform and energize the workplace as employees discover greater value in each other and their work. The potentiality of such a positive work environment is inestimable.

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Workplace Photo attributed to Free-Photos (CC)

The Psychology of Diversity Resistance and Integration

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Christine Wiggins-Romesburg of the University of Louisville and Rod P. Githens of the University of the Pacific. They recently published an article in the Human Resource and Development Review entitled “The Psychology of Diversity Resistance and Integration,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Ms. Wiggins-Romesburg reflects on experiences that inspired this research:]

hrda_16_4.coverIn my prior career as a human resource management practitioner, I worked in a mid-sized corporation where executives were credibly accused of sexual harassment, and it was left to me to address the complaints. I thought that, given the mutual respect I had with the men accused and our shared interest in protecting the organization from lawsuits, I could convince them to discontinue any offensive behavior. Much to my dismay, my efforts resulted in a deepening of biased attitudes and an apparent escalation of harassment that placed the business at increased risk, and ultimately had a negative impact on the careers of the targets and on my own career. I was floored. This experience left me to wonder, “What I could have said or have done differently to produce a better result?”

Although this happened more than ten years ago, today we find countless examples in the media and other recent events where people are called out for their biases and treatment of others. While such behavior may justly earn public condemnation, treating biased individuals this way can be divisive, and provoke defensiveness and shame. As this paper shows, this can increase resistance to change and lessen the chance of a positive outcome.

One possible solution might be taking a softer approach to dealing with biased individuals that is more caring of the needs of those whose behavior we hope to change. This approach is further applicable in situations where the biased individual is in a position of power. The findings were counterintuitive for me personally, and have left me with many more questions that I will continue to investigate.

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Fossil Fuel Divestment Strategies

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. Chelsie Hunt and Dr. Olaf Weber of the University of Waterloo. They recently published an article in Organization & Environment entitled “Fossil fuel divestment strategies: Financial and carbon-related consequences,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the inspirations, challenges, and related papers to their research:]


The research on this paper has been motivated by the discussion about whether fossil fuel divestment decreases financial returns. This question is discussed controversially in academia and practice. Since the Canadian financial market is very fossil fuel heavy, it was interesting to understand both, financial and carbon related consequences of different fossil fuel divestment strategies.

Another influence is the intensive public discussion about how to mitigate climate change. As divestment is proposed as one way to address the problem, we wanted to understand the effect of this type of socially responsible investment that has been promoted by the NGO However, divestment moved from being a niche political activity of NGO to the center of institutional investing with a number of big institutional investors announcing divestment from fossil fuels.

A challenging part of this research is the quality of climate related corporate data. Though many firms disclose their carbon related data, there are still gaps and the risk of biases because often those with higher carbon performance publish their data. However, I think we used an innovative approach that correlated both financial and carbon related performance to analyze whether divestment really has an effect on the decarbonization of financial portfolios.

The results might influence investors with regard to divestment decisions and also contributes to finance research by adding non-financial risks to the equation. Maybe they also influence younger scholar to conduct research in this field though it is still often seen as a niche in general corporate and financial performance research.

Finally, we would like to mention three other papers in the field that have been extremely interesting. First, it is a paper that discusses why financial implications of climate risks are not discussed in conventional financial journals (Diaz-Rainey, Robertson, & Wilson, 2017). Second, there are two more papers that discuss the consequences of fossil fuel divestment that suggesting no negative financial effects from fossil fuel divestment (Henriques & Sadorsky, 2017; Trinks, Scholtens, Mulder, & Dam, 2018)

Diaz-Rainey, I., Robertson, B., & Wilson, C. (2017). Stranded research? Leading finance journals are silent on climate change. Climatic Change, 143(1), 243-260. doi:10.1007/s10584-017-1985-1

Henriques, I., & Sadorsky, P. (2017). Investor implications of divesting from fossil fuels. Global Finance Journal. doi:

Trinks, A., Scholtens, B., Mulder, M., & Dam, L. (2018). Fossil Fuel Divestment and Portfolio Performance. Ecological Economics, 146, 740-748. doi:


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What Motivates Board Members of Founder-Owned Companies?

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Alexander Libman of Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, Tatiana Dolgopyatov of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, and Andrei Yakovlev the National Research University Higher School of Economics. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “‘Board Empowerment: What Motivates Board Members of Founder-Owned Companies?” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they reflect on the motivations of this research:]


Our study emerged from a puzzling observation we made looking at the development of Russian (and, more generally, emerging markets) companies after the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. The crisis reduced the benefits of having an advanced and transparent corporate governance structure: international investors (who in many cases demanded better governance practices in the first place) became cautious and unwilling to engage even the most transparent companies. Since maintaining a well-functioning formal corporate governance system is costly, we would expect emerging market companies to abandon it in favor of informal management mechanisms. AFK Sistema – the company we study in our paper – did exactly the opposite. After the crisis, it invested substantial effort into improving the corporate governance, including empowering the board of directors, going well beyond the Russian standards in this respect.

Our paper, therefore, was an attempt to understand how does the company benefit from improving its corporate governance, even if it is created not for investor’s sake? It appears that empowering boards of directors could have another, equally important function: it can increase the motivation of board members, making them eager to invest their time and effort in advancing the cause of the company. This, in turn, opens new business opportunities and new possibilities for growth. These opportunities can be challenged by changes in external environment: after 2014, for example, AFK Sistema faced challenges in Russia related to Bashneft case, which could also influence the further pathway the company will follow in terms of developing the corporate governance. But fundamentally, the approach of empowering boards to improve motivation appears to be sound and beneficial for achieving long-term business growth.

Our argument applies even to companies with concentrated ownership, which traditionally pay less attention to transfer real authorities to the board of directors. In the AFK Sistema, it was the founder, who controls more than 60% of the company’s stock, who triggered and consistently implemented the change towards a more transparent and better organized corporate governance structure.

From this case study, two conclusions follow. First, we show how important it is to go beyond the simple generalizations and to look at more nuanced factors explaining the choices made by individual companies. In some cases, personality and convictions of the key decision-makers can push the company in a new direction, creating avenues from achieving success. Capturing these nuanced factors was, in fact, the main challenge of our research: we had to gain insight into the motivation and the perceptions of the highest echelons of the AFK Sistema (which is one of the biggest Russian companies). It was not enough that the managers and the board members agreed to talk to us to verify facts and to respond to specific questions – we needed to gain insights in their view of how the company develops and why certain decisions are made, without biasing the respondents by our own preconceptions and ideas.

Second, the case of AFK Sistema also shows that the business experience of emerging markets can be used to draw valuable lessons for companies operating elsewhere – the logic of board empowerment as a tool for increasing motivation of directors could be of value for companies in mature markets as well. Emerging markets are not only about hostile business environment – they are (potentially) about managerial innovations with broader relevance

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