Universiteit Leiden

nl en

PhD defence

The Shadow Side of Positive Organizational Change

  • S.T. Haji
Tuesday 23 April 2024
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden


  • Prof.dr. J.A.A. Adriaanse
  • dr. M. Dechesne


This research investigates tensions associated with positive organizational change (POC) that prioritizes strengths-based dialogue over talk about organizational problems or deficits (Fitzgerald et al., 2010) by bridging the concept of organizational shadow (Bowles, 1991; Fitzgerald et al., 2010; Jung, 1968) with dialectical tension theory (Baxter & Simon, 1993). A recent flurry of studies suggests toxic positivity results in the marginalizing of individuals for expressing their emotions that may not always be positive (Collins, 2022; Cross, 2022; Tufvesson, 2020). A key question this research addresses is what do with the "elephants in the room" that represent what people think is undiscussable in a POC context?
Interviews with 41 organizational development practitioners, with more than 600 cumulative years of experience leading POC initiatives using the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) methodology, identified the contexts in which tensions are likely to arise, the theoretical implications of tensions and practical strategies to navigate tensions in a POC context.
This study’s findings advance scholarship on positive organizing by naming the voice, leadership, and temporal shadows. These shadows emerge as three dialectical tensions: free expression and limited expression of what is discussible in the change process, hierarchical and collaborative leadership, and short-term orientation versus long-term orientation.
The results of this study demonstrate experienced POC practitioners navigate tensions underlying the voice, leadership, and temporal shadows by using nuanced strategies, such as, creating space to hear divergent perspectives, coaching leaders to demonstrate agility in support of collaborative initiatives, and reframing tension such that one pole does not negate the other.

PhD dissertations

Approximately one week after the defence, PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

Press enquiries (journalists only)

+31 (0)71 527 1521

General information

Beadle's Office
+31 71 527 7211

This website uses cookies.  More information.