How Role Transition Affects Relationships

“A promotion to managerial positions is a significant advancement in professionals’ career. But it also brings a significant challenge as they are given more responsibilities that go beyond those of a functional specialist. In order to successfully adapt to their new and enlarged roles, professionals need to renew their networks by keeping, losing, and adding network contacts.

In this paper, we ask how do professionals change their networks after their promotion? Based on two‐waves of social network survey, we find that professionals consider both pull of cohesion (i.e., sticking with old and close contacts) and push of efficiency (i.e., economizing and replacing unnecessary contacts) while networking. More specifically, newly promoted professionals keep powerful, competent, and trusted contacts with whom they share multiple types of social relationships. At the same time, they lose redundant contacts, especially when they have alternative contacts who are competent. Finally, we find that professionals who used to have network that connects otherwise unconnected people add new contacts with greater competence.

Our findings suggest two implications to people who are experiencing or expecting significant role changes, advancing into a managerial role. First, it is inevitable to say goodbye to old relationships and find new ones as one’s career moves on. People do this. Second, and more important, people do so considering both emotional and instrumental values of their contacts. People keep contacts who are trustworthy, or whom they can be vulnerable with—they need that emotional support during the transition. People keep contacts who they consider to be competent, too. But, when they have another contact whom they consider more competent, they lose less competent contacts. Well, that is how significant network renewal happens.”


Assistant Professor