“I’M NOT HERE TO MAKE FRIENDS!” Spontaneous Communication in a 'Winners-Take-All Organization
Valery Yakubovich and Roman Galperin
We study spontaneous communication in the competitive context of a virtual call center, where work is allocated by prior performance. Our field observations and statistical analysis show that workers are more likely to engage in spontaneous communication as a spillover from solving on-the-job problems, as well as on night shifts when they experience heightened social isolation. These findings are consistent with the extant literature on benefits and drivers of spontaneous communication in more interdependent and collaborative settings. Yet, we also document an impact of competitive pressures, with higher performers (the “winners” in our “winners-take-all” organization) avoiding chat room communication and disrupting the spillover effect of problem solving. Our findings acquire wider significance as winners-take-all arrangements becomeincreasingly common in the contexts of arm’s-length employment relationships and geographically dispersed workplaces.
Valery Yakubovich is Associate Professor of Management at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. He is also a Management Consultant for companies in the U.S., Russia, and the Ukraine. His research explores the coordination mechanisms that guide the behavior of employers and workers in organizations and labor markets. In particular, he focuses on the interplay between formal organizational arrangements and informal social relationships, and its implications for individual and organizational performance. For more information about Professor Yakubovich, visit his webpage at http://www.management.wharton.upenn.edu/yakubovich/.