How Making Friends at Work Pays Off for Relationship Managers

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New research reveals how making friends with co-workers helps relationship managers (RMs) maximize their work performance.

RMs serve customers who have ever changing requirements and seek complex solutions. This means that they ultimately must understand all that their company can do for their clients. The internal connections they maintain across the firm can help them gain access to resources that are needed to deliver value to customers. RMs are naturally talented at forming interpersonal connections and researchers continue to focus on the effects of social or informal networks on performance. This new study of nearly 500 employees in the same company shows that, in the presence of the formal network, the informal network does not directly affect performance. The influence of informal network contacts on RM performance occurs when synergies are created between informal and formal networks.

The analysis appears in the January 2014 issue of the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing. First, cross-network synergy occurs when information gained from contacts in one network combines with cooperative support gained from contacts in a different network and improves performance. For example, an RM might learn about a new product from an informal contact in R&D and successfully sell it to a customer, after gaining assistance from members of her formal network. Second, overlap-network synergy implies the presence of multiple relations (e.g., formal and informal) between contacts. Multi-relational ties are strong, so they improve access to unique and private information and encourage reciprocation, which then enhances the coordination between parties. For example, if an RM discusses a customer problem with a fellow RM who also happens to be a friend (same person in both networks), this coworker might expend extra effort to share private information, out of respect for their informal relationship, which then improves the first RM’s performance.

“We found that RMs who combined high levels of information access in the informal network with above average cooperation in the formal network experienced 27% higher sales growth compared to their peers, while RMs who maintained more multi-relational ties enjoyed 29% greater sales growth,” note authors Gabriel Gonzalez (Thunderbird School of Global Management), Danny Claro (INSPER Education and Research Institute), and Robert Palmatier (University of Washington).

This study is among the first to demonstrate that synergies between networks are critical to understanding the “true” effect of social networks on individual performance.

From: American Marketing Association

 

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