A Study of Organizational Reponses to Dilemmas in Interorganizational Emergency Management

Elizabeth J. Carlson, Marshall Scott Poole, Natalie J. Lambert, John C. Lammers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Organizational scholars have traditionally used conceptual definitions to classify situational tensions such as dialectics, dilemmas, contradictions, and paradoxes. We propose instead to use organizational members’ reactions to define and distinguish among different forms of tensions. In the present study, we propose a model in which dilemmas vary in terms of press (the sense of urgency that they invoke) and balance (the degree to which both sides of the dilemma are regarded as equally important and urgent). Depending on the degree of press and balance, organizations are predicted to undertake various response strategies. To evaluate this model, we studied a large sample of members’ descriptions of organizational responses to dilemmas in the Dutch crisis response system (N = 149). Results indicated variation in press and balance, and while some participants enacted dilemmas as choices, others enacted dilemmas in ways that acknowledged and tried to address both alternatives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-315
Number of pages29
JournalCommunication Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • contradiction
  • dilemma
  • emergency management
  • organizational communication
  • paradox
  • tension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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