With Brandy Aven

Forthcoming in Research in Organizational Behavior (2023) Link to article

Studying corporate misconduct requires understanding how individuals coordinate in illegal activities while maintaining secrecy. Drawing on social network theory and analysis, we develop a systematic framework to explain how social relationships and their structures, as well as individuals’ cognitive perceptions of those structures, affect how individuals engage in collective corporate corruption. We distinguish four levels of analysis—topological, relational, individual, and cognitive—and offer arguments and propositions at each level. Using this framework, we integrate and categorize past research at the intersection of social networks and misconduct. A recurring theme in our analysis is the important role of trust among corrupt organizational members. Finally, we discuss how embracing a network lens to study misconduct can not only address unanswered questions, but also stimulate new areas of research. 

With Erik Helzer, Taya Cohen, Yeonjeong Kim, and Brandy Aven

Forthcoming in Journal of Personality (2023)   Link to article

We introduce the concept of moral beacons—individuals who are higher in moral character than their peers and prominent within their social environment—and examine the degree to which moral beacons increase the moral awareness of their peers. Using latent profile analysis (LPA) of data from personality questionnaires and social network surveys completed by graduate business students at two universities (N = 502), individuals classified as moral beacons received more nominations from their peers in end‐of‐class surveys as guides for moral thought and action. Using data from an in‐class exercise conducted in pairs, we find that moral beacons, relative to other students, positively impacted the moral awareness of their exercise counterparts in a discussion of a difficult business case about possible lead poisoning of employees (but did not significantly change their counterparts' moral awareness in a different case). Overall, these results provide promising initial evidence that moral beacons can be distinguished from their peers by both moral character and social prominence and can act as guides for others, at times encouraging greater consideration of the moral aspects of situations and decisions. As these results are the first of their kind, we encourage further replication and investigations of moral beacons and moral influence in other settings. 

Published in the Administrative Science Quarterly (2022) Link to article

(Job Market Paper: Winner of "Best Ph.D. Paper Award" for the Behavioral Strategy track at the Strategic Management Society conference in Minneapolis)

Interpersonal networks can be conceptualized not only as actual social structures surrounding individuals but also as cognitive social structures stemming from individuals’ perceptions of those relationships. Yet most research on social networks adopts either a structural or a perceptual perspective. In this article, I blend these two traditions to examine how actual and perceptual brokerage jointly determine innovation performance. I hypothesize that while actual brokerage benefits individuals by exposing them to nonredundant information, socially perceived brokerage—being perceived to bridge groups regardless of one’s actual network configuration—may trigger skepticism of brokers’ motives that could hinder their ability to innovate. Thus I argue that others’ perceptions of a focal actor’s brokerage opportunities constitute a critical contingency underlying network advantage. Using a multimethod approach, including a field study in a global consulting firm and a preregistered experiment, I find that individuals spanning structural holes achieve higher innovation performance when their colleagues perceive them to have closed rather than open networks, and that trust is the underlying mechanism driving this effect. Integrating insights from cognitive social structures into structural holes theory, this study illustrates the importance of considering both structural and perceptual mechanisms in modeling how individuals reap the benefits of brokerage.

With Brandy Aven and Lily Morse

Published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision (special issue on "Behavioral Field Evidence on Ethics and Misconduct") (2021) Link to article; summary of the article here

Effective monitoring of firms by regulatory agencies is essential to maintaining economic sustainability, correcting information asymmetry in markets, and mitigating social and environmental externalities. Yet, monitoring failures often arise where the monitoring agent fails to detect or report infractions by the firms they monitor. Whereas organizational scholars cite weak relationships and a lack of trust between firms and monitors as a key source of monitoring failures, research in organizational deviance contends that increased trust in strong relationships promotes monitoring failures via negligence and collusion. Drawing on these two literatures, we propose that relationship strength exhibits a U-shaped relationship with monitoring quality, as mediated by trust: increasing relationship strength reduces monitoring failures to a certain point, but beyond which it increases monitoring failures. We test our theory with three studies: a field study using longitudinal archival data on financial restatements, a survey of Certified Public Accountants, and an experimental audit simulation.

With Giuseppe "Beppe" Soda and Marco Tortoriello (all authors contributed equally)

Published in the Academy of Management Journal (2018) Link to article

In this paper we explore the mechanisms underpinning returns to brokerage positions by considering the role of individuals' strategic orientation toward brokering. We conceptualize individuals' strategic orientations in terms of arbitraging versus collaborating behaviors enacted when occupying a brokerage position. Leveraging a novel dataset collected in a global consumer product company, we theorize and find evidence for the fact that arbitraging and collaborating orientations have differential effects on the relationship between brokerage and performance, significantly impacting on individuals' ability to extract value from brokerage. We discuss the implications of these findings for the structural analysis of informal networks in organizations. 

Papers under review

With Giuseppe "Beppe" Soda and Brandy Aven

Stage: Under review

Abstract removed to preserve the confidentiality of the peer-review process.

With Ekaterina Netchaeva and Giuseppe "Beppe" Soda

Stage: Reject & Resubmit at Organization Science

Abstract removed to preserve the confidentiality of the peer-review process.

Working papers

With Catherine Shea

Stage: In preparation for submission

Organizational scholars have started to explore the importance that brokerage processes play in explaining how individuals derive resources from their social network structures. However, past research offers scant evidence of the antecedents of such processes. This paper offers a theoretical account that sheds light on the mechanisms leading individuals to engage in different brokerage processes when interacting with their contacts: that is, keeping them separate from each other (tertius separans brokerage) or introducing them to each other (tertius iungens brokerage). In four studies, coupling experimental and field data, we tested the prediction that power and status have an interactive effect on individuals' brokerage activity. Consistent with our hypotheses, we find that power without status leads to both an increased preference for tertius separans and a decreased preference for tertius iungens. Study 1 showed that neither power nor status alone has a clear effect on how brokers interact with their contacts. Study 2 showed a correlational interactive effect between power and status on brokerage processes using self-perceived measures of power and status. In Study 3, to bolster causality claims, we orthogonally manipulated power and status and examined their effects on individuals' willingness to engage in tertius iungens and tertius separans brokerage. Finally, Study 4 replicated these effects in a field study of managers working for a consulting firm. Moving beyond a purely structural perspective on brokerage, these findings contribute to a process-based view of brokerage showing the importance of the organizational context in explaining third-party action.

With Giuseppe "Beppe" Soda and Manuel Gomez-Solorzano

Stage: Writing

Past research suggests that a high need for cognitive closure—the desire for a definite answer to a question, as opposed to uncertainty, confusion, or ambiguity—is a correlate of lower individual achievement in organizations. In explaining this association, prior work has almost entirely relied on dispositional accounts. In this paper, we set to complement this perspective with a social network approach by providing theory and evidence concerning a novel relational mechanism underlying the link between the need for cognitive closure and achievement. We hypothesize that employees with a high need for cognitive closure are more likely to self-select into cohesive network structures than colleagues with low need for closure are, because dense social networks increase homogeneity in information, behavior, and norms, thus reducing ambiguity. Such network configurations, we argue, operate therefore as a pathway leading to lower achievement via mechanisms rooted in social capital. Furthermore, we hypothesize that these negative performance effects will be stronger for employees assigned to formal structures that have high levels of ambiguity, such as dual-authority structures in which employees report to two managers. We find support for these hypotheses in a field study of employees working in a large multinational organization.