AMR Special Topic Forum - Polarization and the Novel Dynamics of Organizing That Surround It

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Call for submissions for AMR Special Topic Forum: Polarization and the Novel Dynamics of Organizing That Surround It. Submission Deadline: 1 June 2025

Call for Papers: Academy of Management Review Special Topic Forum

Polarization and the Novel Dynamics of Organizing That Surround It

Submission Deadline: 1 June 2025

: Jeffrey Bednar, Danielle Cooper, Katherine DeCelles, Kisha Lashley, John Paul Stephens, and Roberto Vassolo

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”—James Baldwin

Polarization can now be found in a number of our institutions—our schools, neighborhoods, political systems, mass media, and our workplaces. Indeed, polarization can now be found anywhere groups can organize on opposite ends of a spectrum of opinion. With polarization, people not only hold different beliefs and values, but these beliefs and values run perpendicular to each other, in strong, oppositional ways that perpetuate division. Such divisions can lead to “us” vs. “them” identity categorizations that limit attempts at cohesion (McCoy et al, 2018).

Polarization within an organization can emerge from entrenched differences in organizational values and priorities. Polarization may also enter into organizations as a reflection of ideological divisions in the wider community, fractures in the political environment, or conflicts within or between nations. In work settings, the role of strongly opposing viewpoints in individual experiences and interpersonal relationships can be particularly complicated because people in organizations are also concerned with rewards needed for one’s livelihood, the pursuit of meaning, and the impact one’s organization makes in the wider societal ecosystem. All these and more are at stake when individuals and groups engage contested topics and feelings in the workplace and when they possess strongly held, yet opposing, identities (Caprar, Walker, & Ashforth, 2022).

Organizational science and management theory has developed a wealth of knowledge about how people and groups can establish strong relationships, build shared agreements, set goals, achieve cohesion, and foster a sense of belonging across differences. Scholars in our field have also had much to say about managing conflict across individuals, teams, and organizations and also have begun exploring polarization, specifically. For example, studies indicate that deliberation can aid in problem-solving and reduce polarization (Fing, 2003; Strandberg & Berg, 2020).  As we observe the growth of theoretical research and practical guidance, however, polarization seems to worsen around us.

This Special Topic Forum (STF) on Polarization is intended to open up scholarly dialogue on the role of management theory in understanding polarization. There are several facets to this issue and potential intersections among those facets. We offer the following as potential illustrations of topics and directions authors may take; this not meant to be exhaustive as multiple flows of influence and relationships among phenomena across levels may be in play. For example, “polarization” may be evident in terms of organizational divides around strategic issues and team faultlines. The organizational context for decision-making may exacerbate or ameliorate such divides. In turn, polarization within an organization can affect organizational dynamics in terms of routines, coordination, adaptation and further decision-making processes. Subsequently, those internal organizational dynamics can influence workplace outcomes across individual, relational, team and organizational levels. It is possible that the resultant workplace outcomes spill over into the broader society, shaping how individuals and groups interact outside the workplace and their beliefs, attitudes and behaviors concerning issues such as the climate (e.g., global warming), disease (e.g., COVID-19 masking and vaccination) and war (e.g., recent conflicts in the Middle East). Finally, and increasingly, polarizing issues in society may also seep into our organizations.

With this as backdrop, potential submissions may address questions such as (but are not limited to):

  • The Role of Organizational Theory: How can (new) theory on translating theory into practice help us understand why this puzzle persists and what we can do about it?
  • Antecedents of Polarization: What are key antecedents to polarization in organizations? How does organizational context influence the likelihood of polarization? How do organizations and organizing play a role in perpetuating or repairing polarization?
  • Mechanisms of Polarization: What are key mechanisms unique to organizing that might explain how polarization shows up in the workplace? Which distinctive mechanisms explain the emergence of polarization at the micro, interpersonal, and organizational levels?
  • Employee and Organizational Outcomes: How does polarization influence employee attitudes and behaviors, coworker relationship quality, and team and organizational effectiveness? What outcomes of polarization have been overlooked that deserve more attention? Is it possible to find positive outcomes of (certain types/content/processes) of polarization? 
  • Society and Organization Interrelationships: How can organizing processes potentially buffer the influence of external sources of polarization? Through what mechanisms are organizations themselves sources of polarization that might spill over from the workplace into the broader society?  
  • Organizational Adaptation: How does polarization impact an organization's ability to tackle new challenges and adapt successfully? What role does time play in resolving polarization?
  • Organizational Social Evaluations: How does polarization affect organizational social evaluations such as stigma, status, and reputation?
  • Leadership: What role do leaders play in creating polarization? How can leaders navigate leading in a polarized environment? How can leaders develop an understanding of and promote meaningful collaborations with other leaders, organizations, or team members who may be on opposite sides of the divide? How can leaders make sense of and satisfy diverse stakeholders in a polarized environment?
  • Decision-making and Ethics: How does societal polarization enter into decision-making on organizational strategies and actions? How does polarization affect the way organizational members and leaders make sense of ethical situations and make decisions with ethical implications?
  • History/Memory: What role does history play as a battleground for polarization? How do polarized groups"remember" or "forget" differently and how does that differentially influence experiences for these groups in organizations?

Timeline and Submission

The deadline for submissions is 1 June 2025 at 23:59 ET (DST+1,UTC-4). All submissions must be uploaded to the Manuscript Central website between 1 May and 1 June 2025. Guidelines for contributors and the AMR Style Guide for Authors must be followed. To answer questions from authors who are planning to submit to the STF, a team of guest editors will host an online Q&A session in November 2024. Participation in the Q&A session is not a prerequisite for submitting your paper to AMR and does not does affect the manuscript review process and outcome.

For questions about submissions, contact AMR’s Managing Editor. For questions about the content of this STF, contact Jeffrey Bednar, Danielle Cooper, Katherine DeCelles, Kisha Lashley, John Paul Stephens, and Roberto Vassolo.