Published Online:https://doi.org/10.5465/annals.2014.0066

A growing body of research unveils the ubiquity of ambivalence—the simultaneous experience of positive and negative emotional or cognitive orientations toward a person, situation, object, task, or goal—in organizations, and argues that its experience may be the norm rather than the exception. Although traditionally viewed as something to be avoided, organizational scholars in fields ranging from microorganizational behavior to strategy have made significant advances in exploring the positive outcomes of ambivalence. However, despite identifying benefits of ambivalence that are critical to organizing (e.g., trust, adaptation, and creativity), research remains fragmented and siloed. The primary purpose of this review is to advance research on ambivalence by reviewing, synthesizing, and ultimately reconciling prior work on the negative consequences with promising emerging work on the positive—that is, functional and beneficial—outcomes of or responses to ambivalence. We significantly extend prior work by demonstrating that the myriad negative and positive outcomes of ambivalence may be organized around two key dimensions that underlie most research on the effects of ambivalence: (1) a flexibility dimension: inflexibility to flexibility and (2) an engagement dimension: disengagement to engagement. We further discuss the mechanisms and moderators that can lead to the more positive sides of these dimensions and suggest avenues for future research.

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