The geography of strain: organizational resilience as a function of intergroup relations
Kahn, W. A.
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Citation (published version)W.A. Kahn, M. Barton, C. Fisher, E. Heaphy, E. Reid, E. Rouse. 2018. "The Geography of Strain: Organizational Resilience as a Function of Intergroup Relations." Academy of Management Review, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp. 509 - 529 (20). https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.2016.0004
Organizational resilience is an organization’s ability to absorb strain and preserve or improve functioning, despite the presence of adversity. In existing scholarship there is the implicit assumption that organizations experience and respond holistically to acute forms of adversity. We challenge this assumption by theorizing about how adversity can create differential strain, affecting parts of an organization rather than the whole. We argue that relations among those parts fundamentally shape organizational resilience. We develop a theoretical model that maps how the differentiated emergence of strain in focal parts of an organization triggers the movements of adjoining parts to provide or withhold resources necessary for the focal parts to adapt effectively. Drawing on core principles of theories about intergroup relations, we theorize about three specific pathways—integration, disavowal, and reclamation—by which responses of adjoining parts to focal part strain shape organizational resilience. We further theorize about influences on whether and when adjoining parts are likely to select different pathways. The resulting theory reveals how the social processes among parts of organizations influence member responses to adversity and, ultimately, organizational resilience. We conclude by noting the implications for organizational resilience theory, research, and practice.