Management and Organization ReviewManagement InsightsAssociation Books

MOR 16.3 Abstract

Informal Networks: Dark Sides, Bright Sides, and Unexplored Dimensions


Sven Horak, Fida Afiouni, Yanjie Bian, Alena Ledeneva, Maral Muratbekova-Touron, and Carl F. Fey


ABSTRACT Informal networking can be seen as a positive activity with beneficial outcomes for individuals, firms, and society as a whole, but informal networking can also lead to collusion, cliques, nepotism, and other forms of unethical or corrupt conduct – largely related to research on emerging markets. To date, the construction of informal networks and their cultural intertwinement and development have not been a focus of international management and organization studies, a gap that this special issue seeks to address. This special issue contributes to a better understanding of the dynamics of informal networks and their ambivalence, in which the same networks have different modes of operation and have positive and negative sides intermittently or simultaneously. We demonstrate the context in which informal networks operate, highlight their complexity, and encourage dialogue among scholars studying informal networks in a variety of countries. Using a context-based and comparative perspective allows us to conceptualize informal networks in a more integrated and balanced way. Understanding the workings of informal networking – known variously as guanxi, yongo, jentinho, wasta, and blat – in culturally specific settings, places Western values, social structures, and ideals of behavior in perspective and tests Western-centered assumptions, narratives, and theories. Because informal networking is a conventional way of conducting business in many countries, as depicted in this special issue, defining the bright (positive) and the dark (negative) sides of informal networks is critical for responsible management and business success at multinational corporations.


KEYWORDS blat/svyazi, dark side/bright side debate, functional ambivalence, guanxi, informal instutions, informal networks moral ambiguity, networking social capital, wasta, yongo





The State-Owned Enterprise as an Identity: The Influence of Institutional Logics on

Guanxi Behavior


Xi Chen


ABSTRACT Previous research has debated whether guanxi persists or declines with the development of formal institutions. This study addresses this debate by investigating how the development of formal institutions in China's state-owned organizations influences employees’ guanxi behavior. Building on institutional logics theory, I propose that guanxi behavior is a reaction to the socialist institutions adopted by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and is associated with the collective identity of SOEs. Thus, employees’ identification with SOEs is the mechanism that influences their guanxi behavior. A survey of 721 employees from 12 organizations compared guanxi behavior across three types of organizations with different degrees of state ownership: SOEs, public firms, and joint ventures. The results showed that the employees of joint ventures identify less with SOEs and engage in less guanxi behaviors than do SOE employees. The employees of public firms still identify with SOEs, and their guanxi behavior did not differ from that of SOE employees. Identification with SOEs mediated the effect of organizational type on guanxi behavior, whereas formalization did not. Therefore, the development of formal institutions does not necessarily decrease guanxi behavior, and its effect depends on whether the collective identity underlying guanxi is changed. This study has important implications for guanxi research, institutional logics theory, and transition economies.


KEYWORDS collective identity, guanxi, institutional logics, institutions, SOE





Influence of Informal Relationships on Expatriate Career Performance in China: The Moderating Role of Cultural Intelligence


Shuang Ren, Doren Chadee, and Alfred Presbitero


ABSTRACT Pursuing an international career in China can be risky particularly when there is a lack of informal relationships and knowledge of the socio-cultural environment of the country. Drawing from social capital theory of career success and intelligence theory, this study investigates the influence of expatriate manager-local subordinate guanxi on expatriate managers’ career performance and the contingency role of cultural intelligence. Using multi-source data from a sample (N = 154) of expatriate managers in China, our results show that expatriate manager-local subordinate guanxi positively influences expatriate career performance, and that this relationship is positively moderated by expatriates’ cultural intelligence. The broader theoretical and practical implications of the findings for international careers are fully discussed.


KEYWORDS career performance, China, cultural intelligence, expatriate-local guanxi





Interbank Relations, Environmental Uncertainty, and Corporate Credit Access in China


Katarzyna Burzynska and Sonja Opper


ABSTRACT We hypothesize that informal bank networks influence corporate credit access in China. Our sample comprises a panel of 515 corporations listed on China's stock exchanges with a total of 1,052 firm-year observations, holding a total of 7,009 major bank loans from 183 distinct banks between 2007 and 2012. Results support the hypothesis that closure in bank networks facilitates credit access. We further show that the positive closure-performance association offers fewer advantages if financial markets and the legal infrastructure are relatively well developed. Our findings contribute to an emergent literature examining how informal networks can productively substitute weak formal institutions, and how the interplay between informal networks and network embeddedness shapes individual and corporate strategies.


KEYWORDS banks, cross-ownership, environmental uncertainty, leading, network structure, trust




The Role of Informal Social Networks as Intermediaries in the Foreign Markets


Marina Apaydin, Jon Thornberry, and Yusuf M. Sidani


ABSTRACT We investigate how informal social networks can assist multinational firms in their internationalization strategy. We propose a refinement of the Uppsala internalization model (Johanson & Vahne, 2009) grounded in network theory, by developing an intermediate position between an ‘insider’ and an ‘outsider’ for conditions when the transformation of an outsider into an insider is limited by institutional constraints. An intermediary position represents one of the sides of ‘patron-client’ informal networks (Denoeux, 1993) whereby the other side is represented by the ‘insider’. We argue that this setup would help mitigate the Liability of Outsidership (Johanson & Vahne, 2009), a replacement of the Liability of Foreignness (Hymer, 1976; Zaheer, 1995), in the modern networked business world. We contextualize our proposition for the case of Iran, a large rising West-Asian economy with known institutional limitations, and suggest that the informal network of local merchants (bazaaries) could play an important intermediary role in Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) internationalization process. We review the history of bazaaries and make a series of propositions exemplifying possible ways informal networks could influence the internationalization process. In addition to re-affirming the importance of the MNE country of origin (emerging markets, and low psychic distance with Iran), we propose that an intermediary of the Iranian bazaaries will have a positive impact on performance and survival of the MNE's subsidiary in Iran, especially in the case of incongruence of MNE's leadership with Shi'a Islam. Additionally, we suggest that employing the Iranian diaspora may also improve subsidiary performance and survival.


KEYWORDS informal social networks, internationalizations, Iran, liability of foreignness, liability of outsidership, MNEs




Wasta :Advancing a Holistic Model to Bridge the Micro-Macro Divide


Sa’ad Hussein Ali and David Weir


ABSTRACT This article offers a synthesis of understandings of wasta, seen as a form of social network prevalent in the Arab Middle East. Whilst there has been increasing interest in this practice, research remains fragmented and has been criticised for its limited theoretical rigor. To address this issue, a systematic review of peer-reviewed journal articles exploring wasta published between 1993 and 2019 was conducted. We analysed the identified papers according to the theoretical lens from which wasta was viewed, creating a bridge between a theoretical focus on the macro aspect of wasta and an alternative focus on its micro aspects, leading to the development of a holistic model of wasta. The model also helps us to understand the complexity of wasta, both as the network itself and as the social ties that exist among its members, and sheds light on the complex nature of the role and interactions of the wasta. The findings respond to calls for more holistic and inclusive research to inform social networks research and bridge the micro–macro divide. This article offers recommendations to future researchers to build on the holistic and emic approach to wasta research adopted here.


KEYWORDS guanxi, informal institutions, institutionalism, social capital, social networks, wasta




Director Networks, Political Connections, and Earnings Quality in Malaysia


Effiezal Aswadi Abdul Wahab, Mohd Faizal Jamaludin, Dian Agustia, and Iman Harymawan


ABSTRACT This article investigates the relationship between director networks and earnings quality in Malaysia. Using data on 4,416 individual directors who served on the boards of 745 firms listed on Bursa, Malaysia during 2011, we map the entire network of directors and generate measures to reflect the size and quality of information within the network. We find a negative and significant relationship between the overall connectedness of a director's network and the firm's earnings quality. In addition, we find a negative and significant relationship between the political connectedness of the director's network and earnings quality. Our results are robust for different measures of earnings quality.


KEYWORDS director networks, earnings quality, Malaysia, political connections, social network analysis 

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