On Agency and its Limits: The Asymmetric Effects of Offsites on Network Tie Formation
44 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2020 Last revised: 18 Aug 2021
Date Written: August 17, 2021
Social networks are integral to the performance of collaborative work, but research on network change has shed little light on the tactics firms use to deliberately stimulate collaborative network ties among their employees. In this paper, we empirically examine one such tactic, corporate offsites, as opportunity shocks for intra-organizational networking. We find that attending an offsite leads participants to significantly increase the number of new network ties that they initiate. But surprisingly, people who do not attend the offsite similarly increase their network outreach, consistent with deliberate compensatory behavior on the part of non-attendees. However, attendees also receive more incoming requests from new collaborators following offsites, a benefit that does not accrue to non-attendees. These results are consistent with a conceptualization of opportunities as affecting network change in two distinct ways: through the changes the individual makes in her own network, which are subject to individual agency, and through the decisions made by others, which also shape the focal individual’s network, but which fall outside of the focal individual’s agency. Integrating the traditional egocentric perspective with an altercentric perspective moves us closer to understanding both an individual’s agency to shape her evolving network and the limits on that agency.
Keywords: Social Networks, Tie Formation, Network Evolution, Agency
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