Trust and Distrust in the Pursuit of Career Advancement

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8616564123_9f697724c0_z[We’re pleased to welcome Joshua Marineau of North Dakota State University. Joshua recently published an article in Group & Organization Management entitled “Trust and Distrust Network Accuracy and Career Advancement in an Organization.”]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

The key interest I had with this study was wondering if it was beneficial to know your sources of liabilities—that is, do you really want to know who distrusts you at work? And if you did know, would you be better off?  This was an interesting question for me because there has been relatively little work in this area and this was an opportunity to test some new ideas. There is a lot of work which shows our social networks matter, but not much showing whether knowledge of the social network matters, and very little work on negative ties, such as distrust.  Here I found evidence that knowing your sources of trust and distrust can be quite beneficial, especially when it comes to being promoted at work.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?Current Issue Cover

In conducting this study, I was surprised that there wasn’t a clear positive moderation effect for network accuracy on performance related to increased chances for promotion. It seems that being accurate is very helpful, but this doesn’t benefit high performers much. One can benefit from either high accuracy or high performance; but together, there does not seem to be much advantage.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

I hope this research has a modest influence on how scholars think about social networks in organizations, particularly when it comes to individual outcomes. Those that know their sources of positive and negative ties can benefit—this means that one’s position in the network is just one factor in explaining outcomes, therefore scholars might also consider how accurate the person is about their network. I believe this is one of the first studies to look at career advancement and network accuracy and one of the first to use negative ties (i.e., distrust). In terms of practice, knowing who trusts and distrusts you can actually be a good thing, and can pay dividends—suggesting that spending some energy getting to know your network can pay off, particularly if your performance is low!

The abstract for the paper:

Although there is some evidence individuals’ knowledge of the organization’s social network can be a valuable resource, providing advantages, it is unclear whether those advantages also relate to employee performance outcomes, such as career advancement. Thus, the question this study seeks to answer is “Does accuracy of the social network provide a unique resource unto itself, positively affecting one’s promotion in the organization?” This question is answered from a social exchange and social resources view using cognitive social structure-style data collected in the call center of a large U.S. restaurant equipment manufacturing firm. Evidence suggests that social network accuracy of the work-related trust and distrust networks increased the chances for promotion compared with the less accurate. In addition, trust and distrust network accuracy moderated supervisor-rated performance effects on promotion, such that accuracy is generally more beneficial for low compared with high performance individuals, increasing their chances of promotion. Contributions to research in career advancement, social networks, network cognition, and positive and negative tie perception are discussed.

You can read “Trust and Distrust Network Accuracy and Career Advancement in an Organization” from Group & Organization Management free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research from Group & Organization Management? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

 *Image credited to Pal-Kristian Hamre (CC)

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