Published Online:https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2014.0512

In this paper we theorize about illicit roles and explore their effects on resilient team performance. We define an illicit role as one whose occupants specialize in activity forbidden by the law, regulatory bodies, or professional societies, in the belief that doing so provides a competitive advantage. Using longitudinal data on professional hockey teams, we examine the enforcer—a player who specializes in the prohibited activity of fighting. We find that team performance is more disrupted by the injury of an enforcer than by the injury of occupants of other formal roles on the team. In addition, team performance recovers more slowly after this setback to the extent the team tries to replace an enforcer, and the performance disruptions associated with his exit are magnified as a function of his experience with his team. We use these findings to develop new theory about organizational roles that operate outside official channels and formal structures. We suggest that such role occupants are more difficult to replace than their formal counterparts, in part because to enact these roles effectively requires experience in the local social context.

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