Research

I am broadly interested in the relationships that people form in the workplace and the consequences of those relationships for people’s success as organizational members and the success of their groups, teams, and organizations. In particular, I am interested in the perceptions that people hold of their organizational networks – both how people perceive their own personal relationships with their colleagues and how they perceive the larger set of relationships among their colleagues. While social networks are central to organizational life, their configuration is not at all obvious to the individuals who make up the network. My research examines how people perceive the informal social networks in their workgroups and organizations, and how such perceptions affect their behavior and outcomes. Within this research domain, I address two broad questions: 1) when and why network perceptions are a source of advantage in organizations and have implications for workplace outcomes such as job performance, status, and reputation, and 2) how network perceptions influence interpersonal behavior and group dynamics.

I address these questions through a variety of methodological approaches, such as field surveys, qualitative interviews, laboratory experiments, and agent-based simulations. My work bridges multiple areas of research, such as social networks, cooperation, political behavior, and social hierarchies. I build on literature in organizational behavior, social psychology, sociology, and evolutionary psychology.

Dissertation

Vecchi, P. The asymmetric cost of errors in the perception of workplace cooperation. Proposal defended: March 2018

workplace_cooperation

In my dissertation, I examine the status, reputation, and performance consequences of acting upon perceptions of cooperation networks that overestimate versus underestimate their systematic structure. Does it matter whether people overestimate or underestimate the extent to which their colleagues help one another with their tasks or should we expect these errors to be equivalent to the extent that they represent similarly ‘inaccurate’ perceptions? Building on literature in organizational behavior, sociology, and social psychology, I show that we should expect asymmetry in the costs of these two errors. While prior research has emphasized the benefits of perceiving networks accurately, I emphasize the benefits that derive from making certain errors of perception rather than others. At the heart of my dissertation is the idea, that I borrow from the field of evolutionary psychology, that alternative errors of perception may have differential costs. In my dissertation, I build on this insight in the context of contemporary work organizations to show that, once understood, this asymmetry in costs is a source of advantage in its own.

 

Manuscripts under review

Vecchi, P. and Sparrowe, R. [Perceiving social networks]. Revise and resubmit, Academy of Management Review

 

Work in Progress

Vecchi, P., Mehra, A., and Borgatti, S. (Seeing) Like a boss: Empathic network accuracy in leader-member relationships. In preparation

boss's favorite.png

A leader can play an essential role in furthering the career of their followers. Prior research has shown that one way in which leaders help their followers gain recognition and visibility is by introducing them to their trusted contacts. In this paper, instead of looking at what leaders can do for their followers, we look at how followers can actively use what they know about their leaders to boost their prominence in the organization and further their careers. In particular, we examine the network and performance benefits associated with having an accurate perception of whom one’s leader sees as a friend and trusts within the organization, how followers can use that information to their advantage, and what enables followers to acquire it in the first place.

 

Knight, A., Vecchi, P., and Sparrowe, R. T. How does a bad apple spoil the bunch? The effect of a single highly difficult team member on the development of social integration in new work teams. In preparation

one-bad-apple-cropped.png

One highly difficult person can be all it takes to disband a potentially high-performing team and nip it in the bud. But it can also provide a reason to the other members of the team to join forces and bond with one another to survive the threat posed by the difficult member. In this paper, we examine and reconcile these two seemingly opposing predictions. We show that a highly difficult team member (a ‘bad apple’) indeed influences the interpersonal relationships among the other members of a newly formed team, but that its effect changes over time. We further show that, in teams that start out with a ‘bad apple,’ the social integration of the rest of the team follows a distinctive trajectory compared to teams without a ‘bad apple.’ We draw implications for the management of teams and for team members that have to deal with difficult individuals.

 

Vecchi, P. and Sparrowe, R. The evolution of social network heuristics. Designing agent-based simulation.

human-mind

We exhibit default tendencies in mentally representing the structure of social relations that surround us. These tendencies have been traditionally understood as the natural consequence of living in a world in which social relations indeed exhibit certain structures, which the human mind abstracts in the form of network schemas and uses to make informed inferences about the structure of the social environment. In this paper, we examine whether some of these schemas may have an evolutionary origin by examining what it would have meant for the survival of our species to operate without them versus to use them as default ways of mentally representing the structure of the social world. By using an agent-based modeling simulation, we build on literature on anthropology and evolutionary psychology to recreate the conditions of the ancestral environment in which evolution took place and model the behavior of agents which operate under different assumptions about the structure of their social environment.

 

Vecchi, P. and Sparrowe, R. Individual differences and the dynamics of friendship formation and dissolution. Data analysis.

friendship_paper dolls

In this paper, we examine how individual differences shape the dynamics of friendship perceptions over time and through reciprocation. Conceiving friendship as emerging from two parties’ simultaneous understanding of their relationship, we investigate the role of individual differences in how people construe their friendship relations and in whether or not they endeavor to keep them alive over time. Preliminary findings based on longitudinal data from 417 MBA students in three cohorts show, for example, that men and women show distinctive patterns in nominating others as friends, reciprocating others’ friendships, dropping others as friends, and being dropped as friends by former friends. Distinctive patterns also emerge with regards to other individual differences, such as differences in personality. The paper as a whole shows that the way in which we understand and construe our friendship relations is inherently related to what makes us unique as individuals.