Casciaro, Gino, & Kouchaki (2014). The Contaminating Effects of Building Instrumental Ties: How Networking Can Make Us Feel Dirty

Tiziana Casciaro – Rotman School of Management
Francesca Gino – Harvard Business School
Maryam Kouchaki – Kellogg School of Management

Ashley Hardin – University of Michigan
Cassandra Aceves – University of Michigan

Article link:

Question 1. What inspired you to research this question? There must be a great story behind the spark of this idea! Were the hypotheses developed and results commensurate with your lived experiences in organizations?

We all have been in uncomfortable networking situations, where you feel you may be using the other party for your interest. When interacting with MBA and Executive students in our classes, we often heard them comment on the negative feelings they experience whenever they engage in networking, -often to the point of declaring “I hate networking!” But, as we know from the network literature, across jobs and context, effective networking is beneficial to one’s own performance and career development. Having shared the same experience our students seemed to have, we became interested in examining whether networking inflicts more than just passing awkwardness. We suspected, it might make people feel morally dirty.

Question 2. We were surprised that gender was largely left out of the story. Did you have hypotheses about gender differences in the effect of instrumental networking on feelings of dirtiness (the data from Study 3 hint at a gender difference)? We would imagine that societal norms may play a role on how acceptable or unacceptable this behavior is.

We did not examine the gender effects in this paper. We agree that given prior work, one could expect gender to play a role but we did not find support for this relationship in our data. However, we felt examining differences in power, which can be tied to gender and minority groups is a better angle to pursue. Of course, societal norms play an important role on how people define morality and thus influence individuals’ feelings of dirtiness. Importantly, our data form the law firm demonstrates that even in fields that networking is an integral part of one’s job, we can differences in feelings of dirtiness.

Question 3. What was the biggest change to your paper in the review process? This paper is a great demonstration of constructive replication; was this a function of the review process or part of your original design?

The review process helped us tighten the theoretical argument. The constructive replication was part of our original design; we felt very strongly to test the hypotheses in multiple contexts.

Question 4. One of the contributions of this paper is that feelings of dirtiness can ultimately influence performance. Have you thought about how this initiating process (whether or not a person feels dirty as a result of instrumental networking) affects the returns from this relationship? In other words, could initial feelings of dirtiness distance either party from interacting with one another thereby making the tie less effective?

Great question and indeed we are working on follow-up studies examining people’s perceptions of different networking approaches and their effect of the quality of subsequent relationships. What our article already shows is a negative association between feeling dirty and networking frequency, which suggests that the person who feels dirty about initiating the networking may withdraw from the relationships and thus make it less effective. Next, we’re considering how the other party in the relationship may react to different networking approaches depending on how “dirty” the initiator feels and also depending on attributions the target of the networking makes about the initiator’s character and motivation for networking.

Question 5. What question did we miss? You know your work the best! Please raise a question that you wish we had asked you and then answer it.

I think you asked some very good questions.

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