Sociologists have identified the two kinds of people most likely to get ahead at work

Posted on November 2, 2016

The modern corporate world generally celebrates those who stand out from the pack, rewarding them with promotions and salary increases. “No one wants to be perceived as average or replaceable, especially in tech companies that value innovation, diversity, and creativity,” says Goldberg. Yet fitting into a company is also important. It creates a larger, motivating sense of identity for employees and enables them to be productive members of the organization, which by definition depends on cooperation. The result is a conflicting pressure on workers to fit into an organization and, at the same time, stand out. Goldberg and his colleagues wanted to learn more about that tension and find ways to resolve it.

They took a novel approach, examining the language used in corporate emails. The researchers were given access to a mid-sized technology company’s complete archive of email messages exchanged among 601 full-time employees between 2009 and 2014. As a way to protect privacy and confidentiality, only emails exchanged among employees were analyzed.

They closely examined the structure and pattern of email interactions to learn more about small, tight-knit cliques within the organization. Previous research has shown that bridging the gaps between these cliques benefits employees because of the information that flows to them from different groups. “They are able to connect networks that are usually disconnected, so they serve an important role,” says Goldberg. “They have their tentacles stretched into different worlds, and stand out because of that.”

To learn how this relates to an employee’s success, Goldberg, Srivastava, and their collaborators relied on human resource data supplied by the company. In addition to employee age, gender, and tenure, it identified all employees who had left the company and whether their departure was voluntary or involuntary. That data enabled the researchers to correlate professional success with fitting in and standing out. “Involuntary exits are a sharp sign of negative attainment, because employees are at greatest risk of experiencing that when their performance is weak,” Goldberg says.

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Category(s):Workplace Issues

Source material from Quarz

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