Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Business and Economics

Department

Management

First Advisor

Dr. Stephen Borgatti

Second Advisor

Dr. Ajay Mehra

Abstract

Certain properties of individuals’ social networks within their organizations are known to be associated with benefits. However, these properties are not universally beneficial for all individuals. To explain the differing utility of social connections for different actors, network research has tended to focus on factors relating to the actor’s characteristics, agency and cognition. With this dissertation, I explore a different contingency affecting actors’ abilities to leverage their networks: how observers perceive and evaluate the behavior of actors as they craft and use their networks, and how these attributions impact actors’ job performance.

I develop a theoretical framework that incorporates social capital theory to develop a taxonomy of networking behaviors. I build upon network cognition research to explore how observers’ perceptions and attributions of actors’ networking behaviors rather than perceptions of network ties or structure affect actors’ outcomes. I draw upon attribution theory to suggest how observers’ attributions about actors may affect observers’ behavior towards actors, thus impacting actors’ outcomes.

Results suggest that networking behaviors that are seen as serving the collective positively impact actors’ outcomes, while networking behaviors that are seen as self-serving negatively impact the actors’ outcomes by limiting access to high-status friends. However, attributions about an actor’s self-serving behavior augment the benefits the actor receives when he or she has access to high-status friends. When it comes to performance, networks matter, but it also matters how observers evaluate actors’ networking behaviors.

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