More Formally: Rediscovering the Missing Link between Formal Organization and Informal Social Structure

    Although foundational organization theory recognized the role of both formal and informal elements, for the past two decades scholarship appears to have primarily attended to the role of informal social structures (i.e. social networks) in explaining organizational functioning. This trend, however, has left a disconnect between the literatures on formal organization and informal social structure such that crucial questions and problems at the intersection of the two streams of research have been neglected. In this essay, we make the case for rediscovering the inherent interplay between formal organization and informal social structure given their common basis of interactions in organizations. We argue that by bridging the gap between formal organization and informal social structure scholarship we can advance our understanding of both the origins and evolution of social networks and the design and effective functioning of organizations. As a first step towards achieving greater integration of research on formal organization and informal social structure we: consolidate existing scholarly understanding in this area, profile the few studies that have begun to bridge the disconnect between formal and informal elements, identify conceptual logics for linking formal and informal elements, and propose an agenda for future research.

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