Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Social Network Position and Its Relationship to Performance of IT Professionals

Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Social Network Position and Its Relationship to Performance of IT Professionals

Article excerpt


The job performance of information technology (IT) professionals, to a large degree, depends on their technical and organizational knowledge. The successful IT professional constantly updates his/her knowledge to remain abreast of new technologies, changes in organizational strategies, and current affairs in other organizational units (Major et al., 2007). An important way to be informed in such a manner is to tap one's social networks. Through these networks a person stays attuned to the organization's mission and gains tacit organizational knowledge (McCluskey & Korobow, 2009). Social networks mediate the effect of human resource practices on knowledge transfer (Kase, Paauwe, & Zupan, 2009). To truly understand how various organizational units use technologies, IT professionals must factor in social networks because the networks influence system use (Sykes, Venkatesh, & Gosain, 2009).

The potency of social networks comes from the social capital they embody. Social capital refers to the advantage an individual obtains via being connected to others. This advantage is created by a person's location in the structure of network relationships. Social capital "explains how people do better because they are somehow better connected with other people (Burt, 2005, p. 4)." For knowledge workers, social capital established in their social network enables them to be better informed--exposed to valuable job-related information (Brookes, Morton, Grossman, Joesbury, & Varnes, 2007; Lee, Wong, & Chong, 2005).

Therefore, as knowledge workers, IT professionals' job performance is likely to be affected by their social network positions, a relationship that seems to remain largely unexplored to date. Our study is an early investigation of this relationship. It also contributes to the transdiscipline of informing science because informing channel is one of the four research areas that E. B. Cohen (2009) proposes in his latest update to his seminal work on informing science (E. B. Cohen, 1999). Cohen also suggests the scrutiny of informer/client characteristics for their impact on informing channels. Accordingly, in this paper we take the perspective of a person's network constraint, or equivalently, his/her ability to bridge structural holes in social networks, and study its effect on performance. The lower the constraint, the better the person's ability to tap the social capital embodied in his/her social networks. Hence, we hypothesize an inverse relationship between IT professionals' network constraint and their performance, especially their ability to exceed job performance expectations. We empirically tested this hypothesis, controlling for human capital variables such as job tenure (years of service), age, and job grade (technical versus managerial position, middle versus senior management). Figure 1 shows the research model.


The remainder of this paper is organized in the following manner. First, we review the current literature on social capital and social networks, especially as related to structural holes in social networks. Next, we propose our main research hypothesis, followed by a description of the data collection process. We then report our data analysis results. Finally, we discuss our major findings and recommend future research directions.

Theoretical Foundation

Social Capital

Social capital is well suited for transdisciplinary studies. Rooted in sociological studies 30-40 years ago, it has seen application to a wide variety of disciplines (Yang, Lee, & Kurnia, 2009) and has become a core concept in business, political science, and sociology. Social capital is defined, at the individual level, as the potential resources inherent in an individual's set of social ties. At the organizational level, social capital leads to the "benefits that accrue to the collectivity as a result of the maintenance of positive relations between different groups, organizational units, or hierarchical levels" (Kilduff & Tsai, 2003, p. …

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