Navigating space for personal agency: auxiliary routines as adaptations in toxic organizations
Kahn, William A.
Rouse, Elizabeth D.
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Citation (published version)William A Kahn, Elizabeth D Rouse. "Navigating Space for Personal Agency: Auxiliary Routines as Adaptations in Toxic Organizations." Academy of Management Journal, https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2019.0880
Many workers experience organization dysfunction stemming from leaders. Yet organization members have limited responses; they can directly or indirectly confront senior leaders, engage individual stress coping strategies, or leave the organization. We offer another response by theorizing auxiliary routines as behavioral sequences through which multiple actors coordinate responses to complex and enduring socioemotional dynamics that threaten to undermine the enactment of standard operating task routines. Through a qualitative, inductive study of a consulting firm, we delimit three auxiliary routines—absorption, dissemination, and differentiation—through which people navigate between the destructiveness of organizational toxicity and the need to perform given roles and tasks. We illustrate how these routines emerged in response to role and psychological diminishment originating from senior leaders, how the routines helped manage and sometimes perpetuate diminishment, and the consequences for individuals’ personal agency and the organization-as-a-whole. In doing so, we contribute to knowledge about coping with toxic organizational conditions and on routines as a facet of emotional capability in organizations.