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When Brokers May Not Work: The Cultural Contingency of Social Capital in Chinese High-tech Firms

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Abstract

In this paper, we bring structural holes theory to different cultural contexts by studying the effect of structural holes in four high-tech companies in China and assessing whether they confer the benefits to individuals occupying the brokering position in a career network that have been found in Western contexts. On the level of national culture, we propose that the typical collectivistic culture of China will dampen the effects of structural holes. On the organizational level, we propose that in organizations that foster a high-commitment culture—a culture that emphasizes mutual investment between people—the control benefits of structural holes are dissonant with the dominant spirit of cooperation, and the information benefits of structural holes cannot materialize due to the communal-sharing values in such organizations. Empirical results of network surveys confirm our hypotheses, and interview data add depth to our explanations. Brokers do not fit with the collectivistic values of China. Further, the more an organization possesses a clan-like, high-commitment culture, the more detrimental are structural holes for employees' career achievements such as salary or bonus, even after controlling for a host of other factors that may influence these career outcomes. In high commitment organizations, the “integrators” who bring people together to fill structural holes enjoy greater career benefits.

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[Xiao, Zhixing] China Europe International Business School

[Tsui, Anne S.] Arizona State University ; Peking University ; Xi'an Jiaotong University


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Source

Administrative Science Quarterly

ISSN:0001-8392

Year:2007

Issue:1

Volume:52

Page:1-31

Powered by JCR@2007

ESI Discipline:ECONOMICS & BUSINESS;

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