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Barry Staw, Lance Sandelands, Jane Dutton
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Human Dimensions of Fire Management
Organizational Culture & Identity

NRFSN number: 15967
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This article addresses how organizations deal with adversity and how organizations adapt within adverse conditions. The authors comment that most research emphasizes “organizational and not individual or group responses to adversity,” and those studies tend to “take a functional stance”. What those approaches leave out is the potential for “maladaptive or pathological cycles of behavior” that may obstruct productivity within the organization. Particularly within situations that are threatening to the organization or people within it, there may be a higher sense of rigidity, using previous methods of adaptation, which may not be the most beneficial. The authors look at ways in which individuals, groups, and organizations are affected during threat situations. By examining these effects from a number of levels, managers are able to see how threat affects each level and potentially address issues at all levels simultaneously, rather than potentially having a system breakdown among the various levels that are affected by threat-situations.


Staw B, Sandelands L, Dutton J. 1981. Threat rigidity effects in organizational behavior: a multilevel analysis. Administrative Science Quarterly 26 (4), p. 501-524.

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