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Integrating positivity and negativity in management research: The case of paradoxical optimists

Miguel Pereira Lopes (Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas, Universidade Técnica de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal)
Miguel Pina E. Cunha (Faculdade de Economia, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal)
Arménio Rego (Universidade de Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE‐IUL), UNIDE, Lisboa, Portugal)

Management Research

ISSN: 1536-5433

Article publication date: 16 August 2011




Much of management research has been based on what can be called a “deficit‐based” approach. In contrast, there is the recent emergence of a new paradigm shift with the appearance of positive organizational studies. This paper aims to discuss how to integrate knowledge coming from both sides of the fence and exemplify it by testing a model that looks for the intricate and paradoxical relationships between optimism and pessimism.


Using cluster analysis, a theoretical model is developed that includes the existence of a paradoxical type of personality beyond the dichotomous optimistic and pessimistic profiles. The validity of this model is tested in a sample of 343 workers of a company.


The data evidenced a good fit with the four cluster theoretical model and showed that almost half of the sample (46.36 percent) were clustered as “paradoxical optimists”, individuals that simultaneously reported optimistic and pessimistic expectations towards the future.

Research limitations/implications

Management researchers should make an effort to better understand how positive and negative phenomena in organizations relate to one another, namely by studying paradoxical personality individuals. They should go beyond the normal positive/negative dichotomy and search for more integrative forms of functioning. In the specific case of optimism, they should also distinguish paradoxical optimists from both “purely” optimists and pessimists.


The paper illustrates that positive and negative issues in organizations can and should be integrated in more integrative theories. It develops and shows evidence of the construct of “paradoxical optimist”, a personality type that should be better investigated.



Pereira Lopes, M., Pina E. Cunha, M. and Rego, A. (2011), "Integrating positivity and negativity in management research: The case of paradoxical optimists", Management Research, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 97-117.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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