The Role of Strategic Ambiguity in Moral Injury: A Case Study of Dutch Border Guards Facing Moral Challenges
until further notice
SourceJournal of Management Inquiry, 30, 2, (2021), pp. 221-234
13 december 2019
Article / Letter to editor
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Journal of Management Inquiry
SubjectInstitute for Management Research
There is widespread agreement that lower level organizational members face moral challenges because their personal values conflict with organizational directions. Yet we argue that intentional strategic ambiguity, too, may lead to moral challenges, particularly among organizational members operating in high-stake situations. Drawing on interviews with border guards deployed during the European migration crisis, we use vignettes to present two coping strategies. First, members may disengage from moral challenges and redefine their work as a clear-cut duty. Second, they may embrace moral disorientation and conflicts, and follow felt moral obligations. Both may lead to “moral injury.” Moral injury refers to psychological suffering that is engendered by performing, failing to prevent, or falling victim to actions that conflict with one’s moral belief system. We make three theoretical contributions by (a) identifying the roots of moral challenges in strategic decision-making, (b) signaling different coping mechanisms, and (c) challenging pragmatic perspectives on strategic ambiguity.
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