Network Centrality and Performance: The Moderating Role of Extraversion and Openness to Experience

Martijn Jungst


Contributions to the literature on social networks are rooted in the assumption that actors are embedded within a social system that enhances or constrains access to valued resources (Burt, 2009; Granovetter, 1985; Lin, 2002). One important indicator of social embeddedness is network centrality, defined as “the extent to which a given individual is connected to others in a network” (Sparrowe, Liden, Wayne, & Kraimer, 2001, p. 316). In this article, we draw on an episodic performance perspective (Beal, Weiss, Barros, & MacDermid, 2005), to argue that the relationship between network centrality (i.e., advice and adversarial network centrality) and individual performance fluctuate from week-to-week. Second, although previous studies have greatly advanced our understanding of social networks, they can be criticized for assuming that all people share the same ability to access their social network (Adler & Kwon, 2002; Kwon & Adler, 2014). Unlike previous studies, we propose that the impact of network centrality on performance depends on a individuals’ personality, more specifically on their ability to “get ahead” (Hogan & Holland, 2003). To get ahead, individuals seek responsibility, are competitive, and try to be recognized by their peers (Hogan & Holland, 2003). In the present study, the getting ahead motive of individuals was conceptualized while using the two personality traits of extraversion and openness to experience (see for a similar approach Blickle, Wendel, & Ferris, 2010; Hogan & Holland, 2003). This study required 246 participants to complete a diary questionnaire every week for four weeks and a general questionnaire at the start. From the respondents 50,40 % were female and the average age of the individuals was 22.28 years (SD = 1.26). Following the work of Sparrowe et al. (2001), advice network centrality was measured by asking the respondents: “Do you go to this person for task-related advice and/or knowledge for the project?”. Relatedly, adversarial network centrality was assessed by asking the respondents: “Do you have difficulties with this person?” (Baldwin et al., 1997). Individual performance was measured with a peer-evaluation approach. The personality traits of agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience were measured with the revised NEO Personality Inventory of Costa and McCrae (1995). Three primary findings emerge from this study. First, we find that network centrality, in the form of advice and adversarial network centrality, impacts individual performance. This results support the idea that social networks both enhance and constrain the access to valued resources (Borgatti et al., 2018; Labianca & Brass, 2006). Second, we also find evidence that social networks fluctuate from week-to-week, indicating the strong possibility that social networks are dynamic interpersonal processes. Third, we find that individuals differ in their ability to access the resources embedded within a social network. Indeed, individuals with a “getting ahead” perspective (Hogan & Holland, 2003) are open to new ideas and more competent in dealing with the complexities of interpersonal dynamics.

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