Social capital's dark side: knowledge, reciprocity, and the liability of relationships
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Social capital resources for the firm can be conceptualized as those executive-to-executive connections held by a firm’s top management team, as well as firm-to-firm relationships that exist fairly independently of particular individuals. This type of resource can compose an important portion of any firm’s overall resource portfolio. The potential benefits associated with social capital include enhanced economic exchange opportunities, improved innovation capabilities and increased firm survival rates, among others. This study adds to the literature stream focusing on the positive consequences of social capital by demonstrating the cross-level influence of social capital on the development of reciprocity within a joint venture network. It also highlights the link between social capital resources and the quality of knowledge available to a firm via its joint venture partnerships. More importantly, though, we specifically investigate the conditions under which a firm’s social capital (firm-to-firm relationships or the social capital held by key executives) can contribute to undesirable firm-level behaviors. One often mentioned, yet rarely explored dimension of social capital is the phenomenon frequently called the ‘dark side’ of social capital. This dark side of social capital is argued to exist whenever the behavioral expectations accompanying social capital limit contribute to undesirable outcomes for the firm. Several hypotheses are tested in the context of joint ventures among S&P 500 firms. The likelihood of a firm having legal action taken against it by federal regulatory agencies or other firms is demonstrated herein to be related to the number and strength of social capital relationships. In general this research supports the view that having a large number of weak ties is beneficial for firms. More specifically, we found that in the wake of the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, an inverse relationship exists between the likelihood of firms engaging in the undesirable behaviors investigated and the number of Boards of Directors on which the firms’ respective executives held seats. Conversely, firms were more likely to engage in these undesirable behaviors whenever the firm-to-firm ties within their network of joint ventures were strongest. Furthermore, executive discretion was highly related to the likelihood of firms engaging in undesirable behaviors.
undesirable firm behavior
board of directors
Collins, Jamie D. (2006). Social capital's dark side: knowledge, reciprocity, and the liability of relationships. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from