Eliot L. Sherman and Xiaoran Hu. "Everybody Talks: Social Structure and the Selective Disclosure of Discrediting Information in the Workplace." Revise and resubmit at Organization Science.
A core tenet of social capital theory is that relationships within a dense social structure are characterized by trust, cohesion, and mutual support. These conditions combine to catalyze the exchange of information. Yet it remains unclear whether the same patterns of exchange apply to information that threatens the reputation of its subject. We illustrate this point by examining the phenomenon of discrediting information disclosure in the workplace via a field study with replication. While strong ties enhance the probability of disclosure, their structural concomitant—the density of relations around a strongly connected dyad—inhibits it. An implication is that, while strong ties and network density are often treated as additive drivers of information exchange, they actually operate in opposition when the information in question renders its source vulnerable.