Bridging members increasing organizational social capital

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Social capital plays a crucial role in organizations. Social capital, for example, impacts the organizational ability to innovate. Social capital emerges through dynamic social processes, and is contingent on social relations between people that may change over time. As such, organizational social capital is “a resource reflecting the character of the network of social relations within the firm.” While a substantive body of literature has investigated many different facets and antecedents of social capital, we believe that organization scholars should pay more attention to the social structure that affords social capital. The structural position of employees is often the result of both their formal and informal roles. While employees’ formal roles are often managed top-down with relatively little room for individual input, their informal roles are the result of personal preferences and communication styles. Both formal and informal roles influence the structural position that people occupy within an organization. One key structural position within an organization is that of the bridging member. The bridging member connects two otherwise unconnected groups through membership of both groups. While we understand the benefits of bridging for the individual bridging members and for the groups they connect, we lack however understanding about how these bridging members connect groups and its value for the whole organization in terms of organizational social capital. In addition to a lack of understanding how bridging members connect groups and subsequently boost an organization’s social capital, we argue that an online environment changes the way that bridging members connect groups in important ways. Communication and collaboration in organizations not only takes place on the work floor or in project meetings, but increasingly takes place in online environments such as Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs), Here, the role of the bridging member is more visible, and the bridging member has more possibilities to connect to new groups which changes the social network structure. Groups now overlap and become intercohesive, and online environments speed up this process because the existence of groups is more visible which makes it easier to connect to groups. The guiding research question is: how can online bridging members in organizations increase organizational social capital? In particular, we investigate how bridging members affect organizational social capital, starting with the online bridging members’ activity, but also taking the offline interaction into account. We do so by analyzing archival social network data from an ESN from a Dutch youth care organization, enriched with questionnaires sent to employees to collect adjacency matrices, and interviews with selected employees.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventXXXVIII Sunbelt Conference : International Social Network Analysis Conference - Utrecht, Netherlands
Duration: 26 Jun 20181 Jul 2018


ConferenceXXXVIII Sunbelt Conference
Internet address


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