Gender and Negative Network Ties: Exploring Difficult Work Relationships Within and Across Gender

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.2017.1137

This study applies a social network approach toward understanding gender and negative work relationships. Given that work is increasingly organized using diverse, informal work groups inside firms, we stand to benefit from better knowledge of whether and how negative interactions in the workplace may be gendered. Using rich network data collected inside two firms, this study examines the networks of professional managers citing a difficult work relationship (negative tie) revealing gender similarities and differences. Although women and men do not differ in their likelihood to cite a negative work tie, women are more likely (than men) to cite a woman as a negative tie. This propensity to cite a woman as difficult however is reduced among women who cite having more women in their social support networks at work compared with women citing fewer women for support. These effects remain robust to a host of controls and exploratory analyses that include analyzing the content of respondent explanations of the negative tie, formal rank differences between the respondent and target of the negative tie, and possible links to organizational commitment and subsequent employee exit. Overall, this study brings a fine-grained, relational perspective to the study of gendered negative work ties, contributing to scholarship on network disadvantage.

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