A Complementary-Supplementary Fit Theory of Network Brokerage: Evidence from a Longitudinal Field Experiment
Abstract: We develop and test an integrative explanatory framework elucidating how innate individual-level traits influence the processes by which individuals (a) come to occupy brokerage positions within organizational networks and (b) enjoy performance advantages from those positions. Drawing from research at the intersection of organizational psychology and network theory, we argue that an individual’s propensity to broker structural holes reflects a supplementary fit logic, whereby employees tend to embed themselves in network positions that are congruent with their innate preferences and inclinations. By contrast, the performance effects associated with such positions reflect a complementary fit logic, whereby the greatest network advantage results when the resources flowing to an individual “make whole” with that individual’s innate skills and capabilities. We apply our supplementary-complementary fit model to three individual-level traits – self-monitoring, cognitive style and extraversion – that prior studies have found to play a role in moderating the returns to brokerage. Using data from a longitudinal field experiment, we find support for our proposed explanatory framework. One key insight of our argument is that the supplementary and complementary fit logics can either be aligned, meaning that individuals have a spontaneous tendency to build network structures that are conducive to higher performance, or they may be misaligned, in which case individuals display a tendency to embed themselves into network positions that hamper their performance.