Document Type


Date of Original Version



Business Administration


Purpose: Third-party logistics (3PL) companies have experienced an explosion of volume during coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Special tiers have been introduced to provide differentiated levels of service to the customers. However, such changes in an organization reveal and intensify tensions known as paradoxes. The purpose of this research is to identify what paradoxes emerged or have become more salient specifically due to COVID-19 in 3PLs' ground operations and how they are dealt with by ground operation managers.

Design/methodology/approach: This is a qualitative study conducted in two phases. Phase one utilizes a questionnaire approach to identify the paradoxes within the 3PLs operating in the USA. Phase two, conducted six months after phase one, follows an in-depth one-on-one interview approach. NVivo 12 is employed to analyze the interview data.

Findings: The results show that new paradoxes did in fact emerge due to the COVID-19 and are mostly related to the performing paradox category. Findings from in-depth interviews show that the 3PL managers focus on keeping safety as priority to manage COVID-19 related paradoxes, along with modifying operational plans, improving communication, investing in training, optimizing hub network, introducing modified/new methods and adapting modified human resource policies.

Originality/value: This paper is among the first known to identify paradoxes within the 3PL operations during the COVID-19 and provides insights into how these paradoxes are dealt with at mid-management level. Findings of this study provide foundations for the development of a theoretical framework on handling paradoxes within 3PLs.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

The International Journal of Logistics Management