Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2014

The Contaminating Effects of Building Instrumental Ties: How Networking Can Make Us Feel Dirty

by Tiziana Casciaro, Francesca Gino and Maryam Kouchaki

Abstract

To create social ties to support their professional or personal goals, people actively engage in instrumental networking. Drawing from moral psychology research, we posit that this intentional behavior has unintended consequences for an individual's morality. Unlike personal networking in pursuit of emotional support or friendship, and unlike social ties that emerge spontaneously, instrumental networking in pursuit of professional goals can impinge on an individual's moral purity—a psychological state that results from viewing the self as clean from a moral standpoint—and make an individual feel dirty. We theorize that such feelings of dirtiness decrease the frequency of instrumental networking and, as a result, work performance. We also examine sources of variability in networking-induced feelings of dirtiness by proposing that the amount of power people have when they engage in instrumental networking influences how dirty this networking makes them feel. Three laboratory experiments and a survey study of lawyers in a large North American law firm provide support for our predictions. We call for a new direction in network research that investigates how network-related behaviors associated with building social capital influence individuals' psychological experiences and work outcomes.

Keywords: Networking; Morality; Dirtiness; Power; Networks; Moral Sensibility; Personal Development and Career; Power and Influence;

Citation:

Casciaro, Tiziana, Francesca Gino, and Maryam Kouchaki. "The Contaminating Effects of Building Instrumental Ties: How Networking Can Make Us Feel Dirty." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-108, April 2014.