Tie Loss and Tie Gain

Tie Loss and Tie Gain

Who conducted the study?

Claudia D. Jonczyk, Yonghoon G. Lee, and Charles D. Galunic.

What did they find?

Results showed that professionals who have accumulated more job experience are less likely to shed contacts. Also, those who had gained more contacts during their transition were also less likely to lose contacts. It seems that, rather than crowding out existing contacts, professionals try to add more people in their network during role transition. It was revealed that contacts who are partners are significantly less likely to be lost. Moreover, professionals tend not to lose high-ranking contacts, which has an even larger effect when they are tied to those partners through many closed triads. In looking at trust, results showed that both emotional and cognitive trust in a relationship reduce the likelihood of losing that contact. Results also revealed that the interaction effect of proportional density and cognitive trust in others is positive and significant. In addition, the presence of competent others further leads an ego with a redundant network.

How did they find these results?

They gathered newly promoted professionals in three professional service firms (PSF’s- a consultancy, an audit company, and a law firm) and recorded the changes in contacts that they experienced between two periods. The two periods spanned their first 1.5 years in the new role. The new role involved expanded managerial responsibilities. All participants were given a survey in which they listed key contacts that were important for being successful in their job during the previous year. Key contacts fell under such categories: task advice, innovation, political buy-in, professional growth, social support, and external contacts. Respondents also were asked about various aspects of their relationship with each contact, including closeness.

Their dependent variable was whether or not a contact was lost during the roughly 18-month period between surveys. A “tie loss” was defined as when a person was named a key contact in Time 1, but not Time 2. Their independent variable includes the direct and indirect ties. Direct ties are the number of contacts that a respondent shares and indirect ties are the number of third-party ties with whom the respondent and the contact share ties. Trust (emotional and cognitive trust) towards these third-party ties were measured using a Likert-type scale. The extent to which each contact was embedded in a respondent’s network was determined by the closeness of each contact through direct and indirect ties. Network embeddedness was measured using Burt’s (1992) alter specific constraint measure. Moreover, they used proportional density to measure redundancy as it captures the sparseness of a network and non-redundancy among the contacts (Podolny & Baron, 1997). Lastly, they used the respondents’ network structure in Time 1 to gauge the respondents’ learning from their previous network position.

Why are these findings important?

Relations change as service professionals try to cope with new roles, such as during management promotions. Contacts may be lost, while new, and high-quality, relations may have been created in order to cope with new responsibilities. These findings are important because it shows how embedded contacts can help professionals gain efficiency. Role transitions undergo a pull of cohesion. Thus, hanging on to high-ranking contacts during a transition to management may be particularly important, as it leads the professional to aspire that high position. Lost ties confirm the strong pull of already close, and often embedded, contacts. In role transitions, the trust of new ties can be an issue. New contacts may be useful for accessing new resources and new ideas, however, it all comes down to trust in that relationship. It is important to note that not only are key contacts influenced, but the entire network of professional relationships as well. This entire network affects the way relationships are reconfigured during role transition.

Where can these results be applied?

These findings may be related to the context of professional organizations in which are undergoing reorganization. The tendency to remain in strong relationships and cohesive groups should be particularly powerful when the context remains undisturbed, but what happens when that context is disrupted? During reorganization, professionals may be concerned with changes to their contacts, such as who comes into focus and who fades out, and how to identify high-quality new contacts in order to maintain efficiency. During a reorganization of an organization, there may be promotions being offered. Thus, the need to hold onto strong relationships, while forming new ones and trimming old ones may be essential for success. In addition, we see relational changes during role transitions in management ranks. Professionals are likely to be concerned with their own relational changes, while seeking and identifying high quality new contacts that will lead them to success. Since high-ranking contacts provide great resources, it is likely that new relationships will be formed with them. In conclusion, organizations that are undergoing reorganization or have management ranks may see the most relational changes amongst their employees.


Jonczyk, C. D., Lee, Y. G., Galunic, C. D., Bensaou, B. M. (2016). Relational Changes During Role Transitions: The Interplay of Efficiency and Cohesion. Academy of Management Journal, 9(3), 956-982.

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