Lee, J. W., Quintane, E., Lee, S., Umana, M. C. & Kilduff, M. (forthcoming). The strain of spanning structural holes: How brokering leads to burnout and abusive behavior. Organization Science. PDF
Abstract. Connecting otherwise disconnected individuals and groups--spanning struc- tural holes--can earn social network brokers faster promotions, higher remuneration, and enhanced creativity. Organizations also benefit through improved communication and coordination from these connections between knowledge silos. Neglected in prior research, however, has been theory and evidence concerning the psychological costs to individuals of engaging in brokering activities. We build new theory concerning the extent to which keep- ing people separated (i.e., tertius separans brokering) relative to bringing people together (i.e., tertius iungens brokering) results in burnout and in abusive behavior toward coworkers. Engagement in tertius separans brokering, relative to tertius iungens brokering, we suggest, burdens people with onerous demands while limiting access to resources neces- sary to recover. Across three studies, we find that tertius separans leads to abusive behavior of others, mediated by an increased experience of burnout on the part of the broker. First, we conducted a five-month field study of burnout and abusive behavior, with brokering assessed via email exchanges among 1,536 university employees in South America. Second, we examined time-separated data on self-reported brokering behaviors, burnout, and cow- orker abuse among 242 employees of U.S. organizations. Third, we experimentally investi- gated the effects of the two types of brokering behaviors on burnout and abusive behavior for 273 employed adults. The results across three studies showed that tertius separans bro- kering puts the broker at an increased risk of burnout and subsequent abusive behavior toward others in the workplace.
Kilduff, M. & Lee, J. W. (2020). The integration of people and networks. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior. PDF
Abstract. Social networks involve ties (and their absence) between people in social settings such as organizations. Yet much social network research, given its roots in sociology, ignores the individuality of people in emphasizing the constraints of the structural positions that people occupy. A recent movement to bring people back into social network research draws on the rich history of social psychological research to show that (a) personality (i.e., self-monitoring) is key to understanding individuals’ occupation of social network positions, (b) individuals’ perceptions of social networks relate to important outcomes, and (c) relational energy is transmitted through social network connections. Research at different levels of analysis includes the network around the individual (the ego network), dyadic ties, triadic structures, and whole networks of interacting individuals. We call for future research concerning personality and structure, social network change, perceptions of networks, and cross-cultural differences in how social network connections are understood.