Ambidexterity Strategies in Illegitimate Institutional Contexts: The Role of Informal Institutions

Jacobo Ramirez, Claudia Vélez-Zapata, Sergio Madero

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to analyze firms and employees’ strategies in illegitimate institutional contexts in which non-governmental armed groups enforce illegitimate activities in firms and civil society. The aim is to recognize employees as key and effective players in implementing ambidextrous organizational and human resource management (HRM) strategies. We know little regarding employee norms and behaviors in complying with global market standards while surviving in environments characterized by high levels of civil violence and crime.
Design/methodology/approach: This paper presents an explorative, qualitative study based on 65 semi-structured interviews and conversations with employees in Colombia and Mexico over four years.
Findings: The findings of this paper indicate that the presence of non-governmental armed groups forces firms, HR departments and front-line managers to strategically exploit security measures inspired by employees’ informal institutions to protect firm assets while implementing innovative exploration strategies to improve employee work conditions, survive in unsafe environments and remain internationally competitive.
Originality/value: The findings suggest that organization, HRM and employee ambidexterity are organizational advantages in illegitimate institutional contexts. This study contributes to the literature linking ambidexterity and institutional theory by emphasizing informal institutions when examining employment relationships in unsafe environments.
TidsskriftManagement Research: the journal of the Iberoamerican Academy of Management
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)197-218
Antal sider22
StatusUdgivet - 2018

Bibliografisk note

Published online: 28 March 2018


  • Mexico
  • Colombia
  • Ambidexterity
  • Informal institutions
  • Non-governmental armed groups
  • Illegitimate institutions