Fitting in or Standing Out? The Tradeoffs of Structural and Cultural Embeddedness

Fitting in or Standing Out? The Tradeoffs of Structural and Cultural Embeddedness

By Amir Goldberg, Sameer B. Srivastava, V. Govind Manian, Will Monroe, Christopher Potts
September 15,2015Working Paper No. 3285

A recurring theme in sociological research is the tradeoff between fitting in and standing out. Prior work examining this tension has tended to take either a network structural or a cultural perspective. We instead fuse these two traditions to develop a theory of how structural and cultural embeddedness jointly relate to individual attainment within organizations. Given that organizational culture is hard to observe, we develop a novel approach to assessing individuals’ cultural fit with their colleagues in an organization based on the language expressed in internal email communications. Drawing on a unique data set that includes a corpus of 10.25 million email messages exchanged over five years among 601 employees in a high-technology firm, we find that network constraint impedes, while cultural fit promotes, individual attainment. More importantly, we find evidence of a tradeoff between the two forms of embeddedness: cultural fit benefits individuals with low network constraint (i.e., brokers), while network constraint promotes attainment for those with low cultural fit.