Published Online: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.

REFERENCES

  • Alderfer C. P. 1987. An intergroup perspective on group dynamics. In J. Lorsch (Ed.), Handbook of organizational behavior: 190–222. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Google Scholar
  • Antaki C. 1994. Explaining and arguing: The social organization of accounts. New York: Sage. Google Scholar
  • Apker J., Mallak L. A., & Gibson S. C. 2007. Communicating in the “gray zone”: Perceptions about emergency room physician hospitalist handoffs and patient safety. Academic Emergency Medicine, 14: 884–894. Google Scholar
  • Ashforth B. E., & Mael F. 1989. Social identity theory and the organization. Academy of Management Review, 14: 20–39.LinkGoogle Scholar
  • Axelrod R., & Cohen M. D. 1999. Harnessing complexity. New York: Free Press. Google Scholar
  • Barton M. A., Sutcliffe K. M., Vogus T. J., & DeWitt T. 2015. Performing under uncertainty: Contextualized engagement in wildland firefighting. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 23: 74–83. Google Scholar
  • Bigley G. A., & Roberts K. H. 2001. The incident command system: High-reliability organizing for complex and volatile task environments. Academy of Management Journal, 44: 1281–1299.LinkGoogle Scholar
  • Blake R. R., Shepard H. A., & Mouton J. S. 1964. Managing intergroup conflict in industry. Houston: Gulf. Google Scholar
  • Boin A., & McConnell A. 2007. Preparing for critical infrastructure breakdowns: The limits of crisis management and the need for resilience. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 15: 50–59. Google Scholar
  • Boin A., & Van Eeten M. J. 2013. The resilient organization. Public Management Review, 15: 429–445. Google Scholar
  • Bonanno G. A. 2004. Loss, trauma, and human resilience: Have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive after extremely aversive events? American Psychologist, 59: 20–28. Google Scholar
  • Bourgeois L. J. 1981. On the measurement of organizational slack. Academy of Management Review, 6: 29–39.LinkGoogle Scholar
  • Bourgeois L. J., & Singh J. V. 1983. Organizational slack and political behavior among top management teams. Academy of Management Proceedings: 43-47. Google Scholar
  • Brown R., & Williams J. 1984. Group identification: The same thing to all people? Human Relations, 37: 547–564. Google Scholar
  • Campbell D. T. 1965. Ethnocentric and other altruistic motives. In D. Levine (Ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation: 283–311. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Google Scholar
  • Catino M., & Patriotta G. 2013. Learning from errors: Cognition, emotions and safety culture in the Italian air force. Organization Studies, 34: 437–467. Google Scholar
  • Chan C., & Anteby M. 2016. Task segregation as a mechanism for within-job inequality: Women and men of the Transportation Security Administration. Administrative Science Quarterly, 61: 184–216. Google Scholar
  • Comfort L. K. 2007. Crisis management in hindsight: Cognition, communication, coordination, and control. Public Administration Review, 67: 189–197. Google Scholar
  • Cunha M. P., Clegg S. R., & Kamoche K. 2006. Surprises in management and organization: Concept, sources and a typology. British Journal of Management, 17: 317–329. Google Scholar
  • DiBenigno J., & Kellogg K. C. 2014. Beyond occupational differences: The importance of cross-cutting demographics and dyadic toolkits for collaboration in a US hospital. Administrative Science Quarterly, 59: 375–408. Google Scholar
  • Dutton J. E., Worline M. C., Frost P. J., & Lilius J. 2006. Explaining compassion organizing. Administrative Science Quarterly, 51: 59–96. Google Scholar
  • Feldman M. S. 2004. Resources in emerging structures and processes of change. Organization Science, 15: 295–309. Google Scholar
  • Gittell J. H. 2008. Relationships and resilience care provider responses to pressures from managed care. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 44: 25–47. Google Scholar
  • Gittell J. H., & Douglass A. 2012. Relational bureaucracy: Structuring reciprocal relationships into roles. Academy of Management Review, 37: 709–733.LinkGoogle Scholar
  • Gordon J. 1978. Structures. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books. Google Scholar
  • Hilligoss B. 2014. Selling patients and other metaphors: A discourse analysis of the interpretive frames that shape emergency department admission handoffs. Social Science & Medicine, 102: 119–128. Google Scholar
  • Hirschhorn L., & Gilmore T. N. 1989. The psychodynamics of a cultural change: Learnings from a factory. Human Resource Management, 28: 211–233. Google Scholar
  • Hogg M. A., & Terry D. I. 2000. Social identity and self-categorization processes in organizational contexts. Academy of Management Review, 25: 121–140.LinkGoogle Scholar
  • Hogg M. A., van Knippenberg D., & Rast D. E. 2012. Intergroup leadership in organizations: Leading across group and organizational boundaries. Academy of Management Review, 37: 232–255.LinkGoogle Scholar
  • Hollnagel E., & Sundstrom G. A. 2006. States of resilience. In E. HollnagelD. D. WoodsN. Leveson (Eds.), Resilience engineering: 339–344. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate. Google Scholar
  • Hollnagel E., & Woods D. D. 2006. Resilience engineering precepts. In E. HollnagelD. D. WoodsN. Leveson (Eds.), Resilience engineering: 347–358. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate. Google Scholar
  • Hoot N. R., & Aronsky D. 2008. Systematic review of emergency department crowding: Causes, effects, and solutions. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 52: 126–136. Google Scholar
  • Horne J. F., & Orr J. E. 1998. Assessing behaviors that create resilient organizations. Employment Relations Today, 24(4): 29–39. Google Scholar
  • James E. H., & Wooten L. P. 2010. Leading under pressure. New York: Taylor & Francis. Google Scholar
  • Kahn W. A., Barton M. A., & Fellows S. 2013. Organizational crises and the disturbance of relational systems. Academy of Management Review, 38: 377–396.LinkGoogle Scholar
  • Kantur D., & İşeri-Say A. 2012. Organizational resilience: A conceptual integrative framework. Journal of Management and Organization, 18: 762–773. Google Scholar
  • Kinman G. 2009. Emotional labour and strain in “front-line” service employees: Does mode of delivery matter? Journal of Managerial Psychology, 24: 118–135. Google Scholar
  • Kramer R. M. 1991. Intergroup relations and organizational dilemmas: The role of categorization processes. Research in Organizational Behavior, 13: 191–228. Google Scholar
  • Leana C. R., Mittal V., & Stiehl E. 2011. Organizational behavior and the working poor. Organization Science, 23: 888–906. Google Scholar
  • Madni A. M., & Jackson S. 2009. Towards a conceptual framework for resilience engineering. Systems Journal IEEE, 3: 181–191. Google Scholar
  • Maitlis S. 2005. The social processes of organizational sensemaking. Academy of Management Journal, 48: 21–49.LinkGoogle Scholar
  • Martinko M. J., Douglas S. C., & Harvey P. 2006. Attribution theory in industrial and organizational psychology: A review. International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 21: 127–187. Google Scholar
  • McFarlane A. C., & Norris F. H. 2006. Definitions and concepts in disaster research. In F. H. NorrisS. GaleaJ. FriedmanP. J. Watson (Eds.), Methods for disaster mental health research: 3–19. New York: Guilford Press. Google Scholar
  • McKenzie J., Pinger R., & Kotecki J. E. 2011. An introduction to community health. New York: Jones & Bartlett. Google Scholar
  • Menzies Lyth I. 1960. Social systems as a defence against anxiety: An empirical study of the nursing system of a general hospital. Human Relations, 13: 95–121. Google Scholar
  • Meyer A. D. 1982. Adapting to environmental jolts. Administrative Science Quarterly, 27: 515–537. Google Scholar
  • Miller E. J. 1993. From dependency to autonomy. London: Free Association Books. Google Scholar
  • Miller E. J., & Gwynne G. V. 1973. Dependence, independence, and counter-dependence in residential institutions for incurables. In R. H. Gosling (Ed.), Support, innovation and autonomy: 67–81. London: Tavistock. Google Scholar
  • Miller E. J., & Rice A. K. 1967. Systems of organization. London: Tavistock. Google Scholar
  • Morgeson F. P., Mitchell T. R., & Liu D. 2015. Event system theory: An event-oriented approach to the organizational sciences. Academy of Management Review, 40: 515–537.LinkGoogle Scholar
  • Nemeth C., Wears R., Woods D., Hollnagel E., & Cook R. 2008. Minding the gaps: Creating resilience in health care. In K. Henriksen, J. B. Battles, & M. A. Keyes (Eds.), Advances in patient safety: 1–13. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Google Scholar
  • Obholzer A. 1994. Managing social anxieties in public sector organizations. In A. Obholzer & V. Z. Roberts (Eds.), The unconscious at work: 187–196. London: Routledge. Google Scholar
  • Pearson C. M., & Clair J. A. 1998. Reframing crisis management. Academy of Management Review, 23: 59–76.LinkGoogle Scholar
  • Perrow C. 2007. The next catastrophe. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Google Scholar
  • Podolny J., Khurana R., & Hill‐Popper M. 2005. Revisiting the meaning of leadership. Research in Organizational Behavior, 26: 1–36. Google Scholar
  • Powley E. H. 2009. Reclaiming resilience and safety: Resilience activation in the critical period of crisis. Human Relations, 62: 1289–1326. Google Scholar
  • Reason J. 1990. Human error. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
  • Reason J. T. 1997. Managing the risks of organizational accidents. London: Aldershot. Google Scholar
  • Rerup C. 2009. Attentional triangulation: Learning from unexpected rare crises. Organization Science, 20: 876–893. Google Scholar
  • Roberts K. H., & Rousseau D. M. 1989. Research in nearly failure-free, high-reliability organizations: Having the bubble. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 36: 132–139. Google Scholar
  • Roberts K. H., Stout S. K., & Halpern J. J. 1994. Decision dynamics in two high reliability military organizations. Management Science, 40: 614–624. Google Scholar
  • Ross L. 1977. The intuitive psychologist and his shortcomings: Distortions in the attribution process. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 10: 173–220. Google Scholar
  • Roux-Dufort C. 2009. The devil lies in details! How crises build up within organizations. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 17: 4–11. Google Scholar
  • Rudolph J. W., & Repenning N. P. 2002. Disaster dynamics: Understanding the role of quantity in organizational collapse. Administrative Science Quarterly, 47: 1–30. Google Scholar
  • Shalev A. Y., & Errera Y. 2008. Resilience is the default: How not to miss it. In M. Blumenfield & R. J. Ursano (Eds.), Intervention and resilience after mass trauma: 149–172. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
  • Sherif M. 1966. Group conflict and co-operation. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Google Scholar
  • Silbey S. S. 2009. Taming Prometheus: Talk about safety and culture. Annual Review of Sociology, 35: 341–369. Google Scholar
  • Staw B. M., Sandelands L. E., & Dutton J. E. 1981. Threat rigidity effects in organizational behavior: A multi-level analysis. Administrative Science Quarterly, 26: 501–524. Google Scholar
  • Sutcliffe K. M., & Vogus T. 2003. Organizing for resilience. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship: 94–110. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler. Google Scholar
  • Sutcliffe K. M., & Weick K. E. 2013. Mindful organizing and resilient health care. In E. Hollnagel, J. Braithwaite, & R. Wears (Eds.), Resilient health care: 145–156. Surrey, UK: Ashgate. Google Scholar
  • Tajfel H., & Turner J. C. 1979. An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In W. G. AustinS. Worchel (Eds.), Social psychology of intergroup relations: 33–47. New York: Brooks Cole. Google Scholar
  • Tajfel H., & Turner J. C. 1985. The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. In S. Worchel & W. G. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of intergroup relations: 7–24. Chicago: Nelson-Hall. Google Scholar
  • Turner B. A. 1976. The organizational and interorganizational development of disasters. Administrative Science Quarterly, 21: 378–397. Google Scholar
  • Turner J. C. 1975. Social comparison and social identity: Some prospects for intergroup behaviour. European Journal of Social Psychology, 5: 1–34. Google Scholar
  • Tversky A., & Kahneman D. 1981. The framing of decisions and the psychology of choice. Science, 211: 453–458. Google Scholar
  • van Knippenberg D. 2003. Intergroup relations in organizations. In M. A. West, D. Tjosvold, & K. G. Smith (Eds.), International handbook of organizational teamwork and cooperative working: 381–399. Chichester, UK: Wiley. Google Scholar
  • Vogus T. J., & Sutcliffe K. M. 2007. Organizational resilience: Towards a theory and research agenda. In 2007 IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man and Cybernetics: 3418–3422. Google Scholar
  • Wageman R. 1995. Interdependence and group effectiveness. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40: 145–180. Google Scholar
  • Wears R. L., & Perry S. J. 2006. “Free fall”—A case study of resilience, its degradation, and recovery in an emergency department. In Second Symposium on Resilience Engineering: 114-123. Google Scholar
  • Wears R. L., Perry S. J., Anders S., & Woods D. D. 2008. Resilience in the emergency department. In C. P. Nemeth & E. Hollnagel (Eds.), Resilience engineering: Remaining open to the possibility of failure: 197–210. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate. Google Scholar
  • Weick K. E. 1976. Educational organizations as loosely coupled systems. Administrative Science Quarterly, 21: 1–19. Google Scholar
  • Weick K. E. 1988. Enacted sensemaking in crisis situations. Journal of Management Studies, 25: 305–317. Google Scholar
  • Weick K. E. 1993. The collapse of sensemaking in organizations: The Mann Gulch disaster. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38: 628–652. Google Scholar
  • Weick K. E., & Sutcliffe K. M. 2001. Managing the unexpected. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Google Scholar
  • Weick K. E., & Sutcliffe K. M. 2006. Mindfulness and the quality of organizational attention. Organization Science, 17: 514–524. Google Scholar
  • Westrum R. 2006. A typology of resilience situations. In E. Hollnagel, D. D. Woods, & N. Leveson (Eds.), Resilience engineering: 55–65. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate. Google Scholar
  • Wildavsky A. 1991. Searching for safety. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction. Google Scholar
  • Williams T. A., Gruber D. A., Sutcliffe K. M., Shepherd D. A., & Zhao E. Y. 2017. Organizational response to adversity: Fusing crisis management and resilience research streams. Academy of Management Annals, 11: 733–769.LinkGoogle Scholar
  • Woods D. D. 2006. Essential characteristics of resilience. In E. Hollnagel, D. D. Woods, & N. Leveson (Eds.), Resilience engineering: 21–34. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate. Google Scholar
  • Woods D. D., & Branlat M. 2011. Basic patterns in how adaptive systems fail. In E. Hollnagel, J. Paries, D. D. Woods, & J. Wreathall (Eds.), Resilience engineering in practice: 127–144. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate. Google Scholar
  • Woods D. D., & Patterson E. S. 2000. How unexpected events produce an escalation of cognitive and coordinative demands. In P. Hancock & P. Desmond (Eds.), Stress workload and fatigue: 290–304. Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Google Scholar
  • Woods D. D., & Wreathall J. 2008. Stress-strain plots as a basis for assessing system resilience. In E. Hollnagel, C. Nemeth, & S. Dekker (Eds.), Remaining sensitive to the possibility of failure: 143–158. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate. Google Scholar
Academy of Management
  Academy of Management
  555 Pleasantville Road, Suite N200
  Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510-8020, USA
  Phone: +1 (914) 326-1800
  Fax: +1 (914) 326-1900