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When competence is irrelevant: the role of interpersonal affect in task-related ties

Author: Casciaro, Tiziana ; Sousa Lobo, MiguelINSEAD Area: Decision SciencesIn: Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 53, no. 4, December 2008 Language: EnglishDescription: p. 655-684.Type of document: INSEAD ArticleNote: Please ask us for this itemAbstract: This paper examines the role of interpersonal affect (i.e., an individual's generalized positive or negative feelings toward another person) in networks of task-related action in organizations. We aim to answer the following question: how does interpersonal affect modify the impact of task competence on the formation of task-related ties? We develop a theory according to which negative interpersonal affect renders task competence virtually irrelevant in the selection of partners for task interaction, potentially leaving organizations with a significant reservoir of untapped knowledge. Likewise, we propose that positive interpersonal affect increases the reliance on competence as a criterion for task interaction, thereby facilitating access to the task-related resources that reside in organizations. Based on a methodology that draws from social psychological models of interpersonal perception and hierarchical Bayesian models for social network analysis, we find consistent support for this theory in social network data from three organizations: an entrepreneurial computer technology company, staff personnel at an academic institution, and employees in a large information technology corporation. The findings indicate that a critical facet of an organization's social structure (i.e., informal patterns of interaction), is the organization's affective structure (i.e., patterns of interpersonal affect among organizational participants), an object of study with the potential to influence academic discourse on the interplay of psychological and structural dimensions of organizational life.
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This paper examines the role of interpersonal affect (i.e., an individual's generalized positive or negative feelings toward another person) in networks of task-related action in organizations. We aim to answer the following question: how does interpersonal affect modify the impact of task competence on the formation of task-related ties? We develop a theory according to which negative interpersonal affect renders task competence virtually irrelevant in the selection of partners for task interaction, potentially leaving organizations with a significant reservoir of untapped knowledge. Likewise, we propose that positive interpersonal affect increases the reliance on competence as a criterion for task interaction, thereby facilitating access to the task-related resources that reside in organizations. Based on a methodology that draws from social psychological models of interpersonal perception and hierarchical Bayesian models for social network analysis, we find consistent support for this theory in social network data from three organizations: an entrepreneurial computer technology company, staff personnel at an academic institution, and employees in a large information technology corporation. The findings indicate that a critical facet of an organization's social structure (i.e., informal patterns of interaction), is the organization's affective structure (i.e., patterns of interpersonal affect among organizational participants), an object of study with the potential to influence academic discourse on the interplay of psychological and structural dimensions of organizational life.

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