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Paradoxifying Organizational Change: Cynicism and Resistance in the Swedish Armed Forces

Journal article
Authors Ola Bergström
Alexander Styhre
Per Thilander
Published in Journal of Change Management
Volume 14
Issue 3
Pages 384-404
ISSN 1469-7017
Publication year 2014
Published at Department of Business Administration, Management & Organisation
Centre for Global Human Resource Management
Pages 384-404
Language en
Keywords Organizational cynicism, resistance, armed forces, organization change, translation
Subject categories Business Administration


This article explores organizational cynicism in the context of a major organizational change process. Cynicism has been viewed as a form of resistance driven by unsuccessful implementation of organizational change or, in contrast, as a direct negative attitude towards management. Drawing upon the interview data with regiment managers, this article analyses how unit managers describe organizational changes that their units have endured during a longer period of time. The empirical data suggest that rather than an expression of failed organizational change, managerial incompetence, or a general mistrust in management, organizational cynicism can be seen as organizational members' response to perceived changes and an effort to create a consistent image of everyday activities and formal organizational structures. In this non-instrumental view of organizational cynicism, any attempt to analyse the impact of organizational change on organizational cynicism must therefore take into account the possibility that organizational members actively take part in translating organizational change through what we call paradoxification, that is, by identifying contradictions and inconsistencies between the formal decisions made and their effects in the local setting, rather than other forms of resistance.

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