When Competence Is Irrelevant: The Role of Interpersonal Affect in Task-Related Ties

  • Casciaro T
  • Lobo M
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This paper examines the role of a person's generalized positive or negative feelings toward someone (interper-sonal affect) in task-related networks in organizations. We theorize that negative interpersonal affect renders task competence virtually irrelevant in a person's choice of a partner for task interactions but that positive interperson-al affect increases a person's reliance on competence as a criterion for choosing task partners, facilitating access to organizational resources relevant to the task. Using social psychological models of interpersonal perception and hierarchical Bayesian models, we find support for this theory in social network data from employees in three organizations: an entrepreneurial computer technology company, staff personnel at an academic institution, and employees in a large information technology corporation. The results suggest that competence may be irrelevant not just when outright dislike colors a relationship. Across organizational contexts and types of task-related interaction, people appear to need active liking to seek out the task resources of potential work partners and fully tap into the knowledge that resides in organizations. We discuss contributions of our study to research on the interplay of psychological and structural dimensions of organizational life. •

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  • Tiziana Casciaro

  • Miguel Sousa Lobo

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