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Hi Vijaya,

I've already sent you some of the research I've been conducting on
negative ties directly, but I thought I'd respond to these questions
through SOCNET because they might be of wider interest.

I do believe that you can get reliable data on negative ties if you
carefully explain the IRB process and all of the precautions that you are
implementing to ensure respondent confidentiality. You'd be surprised what
people will report to a stranger that they wouldn't dare say to anyone
they know in the workplace. When I've collected negative ties, I've backed
up the sociometric survey with qualitative interviews. For a recent
dataset, I interviewed one out of every 4 respondents to get a better
sense of how reliable the data were. The notes below are from the 2000 AoM
meetings and they go through some of the things to think about when
conducting negative ties research.

When recruiting firms, don't focus on negative ties too much -- it will
make them overly nervous.  If you're collecting a broad array of network
measures, call it a network study. If you show them some NetDraw pictures,
they quickly get excited about the possibilities.  I once gave executives
a pictorial view of where they sat in the organization's network (with
none of the nodes identified except their node), and they felt that it
justified the entire study just to see that.  Point out that you are
examining things like A, B, and C, and that you are also examining who
people like and dislike, and how that relates to A, B, and C. If you are
collecting data on, for example, job satisfaction or citizenship
behaviors, you can feed that back to the organization. Just draw a
distinct boundary around what you can share with them (in aggregate form)
and what you can't.

When you present the research to respondents, you'll have to spend a good
amount of time on confidentiality issues. If people ask you why they
should reveal something so personal as who they dislike, apologize
profusely, and then explain that it is important to give future managers
an accurate portrait of the social landscape in organizations and that
interpersonal conflict is an important part of the social landscape. Keep
pointing out that if they feel very uncomfortable, they can always choose
to skip the question or choose not to participate. My experience is that
the more that you are honest with them and let them know that they are not
required to do this, but that they are doing it for the benefit of future
undergrad and graduate business students who will learn about this in
textbooks some day, the more likely you are to get a fantastic response
rate. Be sure to get at least one member of top management to attend each
meeting when you explain the study, as this will signal that they agreed
to the study and are backing the data collection. I won't lie to you -- it
takes a while to find a firm to agree. But you will eventually -- just be

If you have more specific questions, please feel free to call me and we
can discuss directly.


Selected notes from Interactive Workshop on Issues in Conducting Research
on Negative Ties in Organizations (AoM, 2000):

Achieving high response rates:
Top management support is crucial
Paying respondents is helpful, but not absolutely necessary
Conduct introductory meetings with all employees explaining the purpose of
the study and its ultimate utility to mankind
stress confidentiality issues and point out that your study has been
approved under federal guidelines governing human subjects
stress that you are not a consultant, and that the results will not affect
their jobs in any way
Have respondents fill out surveys in small groups at scheduled times
during the workday if possible
Be extremely honest with the respondents; answer all questions thoroughly;
bring along sample Krackplots
Conducting qualitative interviews helps boost response rate
Cookies are helpful; smiles go a long way

What are negative ties?
Attitude towards another person
Affective, cognitive, or behavioral questions?
Who do you dislike?
With whom do you have an adversarial relationship?
Who do you prefer to avoid?
Should we measure all three?

Continuum vs. orthogonal
Psychologists have debated continuum (bipolar) vs. orthogonal (bivariate)
approaches to measuring attitudes and emotions (see Barrett & Russell,
1998; Cacioppo, et al., 1997)
Orthogonal approach
every relationship conveys both positive and negative aspects; therefore,
relationships should be measured using both positive and negative scales
(e.g., Rook, 1984, 1990; ASU studies)
Continuum approach
global judgments of like or dislike (e.g., Berscheid & Walster, 1969;
Homans, 1950, 1961; Tagiuri, 1958)

"Venkataramani, Vijaya" <[log in to unmask]> writes:
>*****  To join INSNA, visit  *****
>I am currently involved in social network research, specifically looking
>at negative ties among network members.In this regard, i had a few
>1. Do respondents actually provide reliable data about negative ties? How
>can i minimize any social desirability issues?
> 2. I am running into some trouble getting field sites for my research as
>organizations are a little concerned about the fact that we would be
>asking employees about their negative ties, though they understand the
>value of the research.
>In this regard, i was wondering if someone could advise me about the kind
>of reciprocal benefit i could provide the organizations in return for
>using their field site. I may not be able to provide them with detailed
>information about the data collected without violating the privacy /
>confidentiality of responses. So, it would be great if someone who has
>done similar research could give me some suggestions.
>Vijaya Venkataramani
>Purdue University
>SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social
>network researchers ( To unsubscribe, send
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Giuseppe (Joe) Labianca
Assistant Professor of Organization and Management
Goizueta Business School
Emory University
1300 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
Phone: (404) 727-7067
Fax: (404) 727-6663
[log in to unmask]

SOCNET is a service of INSNA, the professional association for social
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