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Threat, Opportunity, and Network Interaction in Organizations


This article examines how uncertain situations of threat or opportunity influence people’s choices to interact with their colleagues in an organization. The threat/opportunity lens encompasses two conceptually distinct dimensions, gain/loss and control/limited control, which are hypothesized to produce different patterns of network interaction. Two experimental studies—one involving 158 leaders in a health-care organization and the other involving 129 employees in a range of smaller establishments—provided support for the proposed conceptualization. The studies found that (1) people chose to interact with more network contacts in situations of loss than in situations of gain, (2) those with an internal locus of control chose to interact with more network contacts in situations of limited control than in situations of control, whereas those with an external locus of control exhibited the opposite response, and (3) the tendency to interact with more network contacts in loss rather than gain was greater for low-ranking actors relative to high-ranking ones. These findings contribute to our understanding of the interplay between individual cognition and organizational social networks.

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