Ambivalence in Organizations: A Multilevel Approach
INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences)
The experience of simultaneously positive and negative orientations toward a person, goal, task, idea, and such appears to be quite common in organizations, but it is poorly understood. We develop a multilevel perspective on ambivalence in organizations that demonstrates how this phenomenon is integral to certain cognitive and emotional processes and important outcomes. Specifically, we discuss the organizational triggers of ambivalence and the cognitive and emotional mechanisms through which ambivalence diffuses between the individual and collective levels of analysis. We offer an integrative framework of major responses to highly intense ambivalence (avoidance, domination, compromise, and holism) that is applicable to actors at the individual and collective levels. The positive and negative outcomes associated with each response, and the conditions under which each is most effective, are explored. Although ambivalence is uncomfortable for actors, it has the potential to foster growth in the actor as well as highly adaptive and effective behavior.