Organizational Polarities

In doing further exploration into polarity management, I came across this neat image that truly exemplifies the adage of “a picture is worth more than 1,000 words”:


Though to be fair, it’s a picture of mostly words 🙂

It was developed by Robert Quinn as part of his book, The Positive Organization, which is now added to my reading queue.

But basic familiarity with polarity management is enough to see the value of this diagram even on a standalone basis, as a really powerful way to capture some of the core organizational polarities, highlighting the key positive and negative of each pole.


I view it as a great tool for jump-starting any organizational polarities conversation. By providing a crude-but-complete (negatives and positives of both poles) jump-off point for the conversation, it can help accelerate the shared empathy and understanding of the opposing views and move participants further along in navigating the more nuanced aspects of the tension.


Organizational Polarities

Are you a Segmentor or an Integrator?

Work-life balance is always a hot topic in organizational circles. Even if you buy into this loaded distinction, good advice on how to improve it is hard to come by.

Megan Huth of Google came up with a pretty interesting insight on that topic:

Segmentors vs Integrators: Google’s work-life-balance research

She started with a distinction between two work/non-work time management strategies first introduced by Christena Nippert-Eng:

  1. Segmentors are people who create rigid boundaries between their personal and work lives. They reported that: “In my life, there is a clear boundary between my career and my non-work roles.”
  2. Integrators are people who blur the lines been work and home, switching back and forth between the two. This group often agreed that: “It is often difficult to tell where my work life ends and my non-work life begins.”

And then looked for correlations between the way Google employees classified their existing and desired time management strategy with the way they rate their overall well-being. She found that:

Regardless of preference, Segmentors were significantly happier with their well-being than Integrators. Additionally, Segmentors were more than twice as likely to be able to detach from work (when they wanted to). Less than a third of Googlers behaved like Segmentors and over half of Integrators said they wished they could segment better.

That latter part: over 2/3 of Google employees are NOT segmentors, and 50% of them want to be, highlighted both the size of the opportunity and an interesting path forward in improving employee’s overall well-being.

In the remainder of the article Megan outlines several strategies and techniques that Google experimented with, attempting moving the needle in that direction.

Are you a Segmentor or an Integrator?