A time to act and a time for restraint: Everyday sensegiving in the context of paradox

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Using a mixed-methods approach, this study examines how leaders' everyday sensegiving strategies shape followers' compliance with a paradoxical use-of-force policy. Building on performance data derived from 41 teams and interviews with their respective team leaders, our findings point to two sensegiving strategies: practical (connecting the policy to larger organizational goals) and internalization (connecting the policy to team members' personal norms, experiences, and values). We also identified a third communication strategy, which did not involve sensegiving: bureaucratic communication (ignoring the paradox and delivering the policy). Findings show that followers deviated less from the paradoxical policy when their leaders used either of the two sensegiving strategies (internalization and practical) compared with the bureaucratic strategy. The findings shed light on the interplay between sensegiving and leadership theories that relate to the dynamics of motivating followers in contexts of paradox, particularly meaning-based leadership.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1005-1022
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • everyday sensegiving
  • military
  • paradox
  • restraint
  • sensegiving

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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