Managing impressions rather than emissions: Volkswagen and the false mastery of paradox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The challenge of dealing with paradoxes has become a central issue in management and organization studies. Present research literature is largely inclined to idealize paradoxical framing in thinking and theorizing. We critically explore the perils paradoxes present when generated by stretch goals whose ‘achievement’ is accomplished through impression management. Using the Volkswagen emissions scandal we show how paradoxical promises, embraced discursively but not substantively, created false transcendence rather than paradoxical mastery. We contribute to paradox theory by discussing how the illusion of paradox embrace can trigger dysfunctional behaviours. In practice, the paper cautions organizations and their members from being overconfident in their ability to embrace paradoxes successfully.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)949-970
JournalOrganization Studies
Volume42
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021

Keywords

  • contradictions
  • impression management
  • paradox theory
  • paradoxes
  • stretch goals
  • Volkswagen emissions scandal

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