Purpose: This research aims to explore and analyze multinational enterprises (MNEs) and local firms' ambidexterity strategies to buffer against narcoterrorism impacts on their assets. The role of line managers (LMs), who have been deemed key players in the implementation of ambidextrous strategies, was investigated in detail. Design/methodology/approach: This paper presents a qualitative study based on 58 semistructured interviews with key employees, i.e. firm directors, human resource (HR) managers, LMs and their subordinates, in Colombia and Mexico over a three-year period. Findings: The “culture of insecurity” that exists in Colombia and Mexico due to narcoterrorism and the lack of governmental enactment of coercive institutional pillars defines the common frames and patterns of the beliefs held by managers and employees working in such contexts. To ensure the survival of employees and firms in unsafe institutional contexts while managing normative pressures to compete worldwide, LMs, HR departments, and ultimately firms are forced to strategically exploit security measures and simultaneously implement innovative explorative strategies. Originality/value: The findings suggest that ambidexterity strategies in unsafe institutional contexts represent an organizational advantage for competing worldwide while surviving in such contexts. This study contributes to the literature by linking ambidexterity and new institutionalism research in a robust framework with which to examine employment relationships in unsafe institutional contexts.
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- Line manager
- New institutionalism
- Security risk