Interpersonal Networks in Organizations
Cognition, Personality, Dynamics, and Culture
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 2008
Online Publication Date:May 2010
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511753749.007
One of the enduring questions we face as human beings concerns why some people outcompete others in the race for life's prizes. In work organizations, for example, why are some people better performers than others? One answer to this question is provided by research on the importance of structural position. Within each specific work context, some individuals occupy more advantageous positions in social networks than other individuals. These positions allow access to people who are otherwise disconnected from each other. The individuals who act as go-betweens, bridging the “structural holes” between disconnected others, facilitate resource flows and knowledge sharing across the organization. Their contributions to organizational functioning may lead to enhanced rewards, including faster promotions (Burt, 1992) and higher performance ratings.
Research on structural position has emphasized the importance of being in the right place (Brass, 1984) but has neglected both the possibility that the network positions occupied by individuals might be influenced by their psychology and the possibility that personality and social network position might combine to influence important outcomes such as work performance. The structural approach to organizational dynamics tends to emphasize the structure of positions in social space (Blau, 1993; Pfeffer, 1991) and avoids dependence on difficult-to-measure psychological properties of actors (e.g., McPherson et al., 1992).