January 04, 2023

2:00 p.m. ET

This event is for invited researchers only.

Scholar presenter:

Beth Schinoff, Boston College

Seed generators:

Barbara Fredrickson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Spencer Harrison, INSEAD


Virtually together: How a non-work virtual platform leads to high quality connections at work

Talk description:

There is widespread recognition that high quality connections (HQCs) benefit workers and their organizations. Research and anecdotal evidence also suggests that workers who interact virtually or in hybrid ways are particularly likely to struggle to experience HQCs. As these ways of working become commonplace, a better understanding of what facilitates and undermines the growth of these connections is needed. Through an inductive study of a virtual exercise platform’s members, we build theory on how non-work platforms can foster HQCs for workers, and how these same platforms carry risks of exclusion, surveillance, and personal/professional boundary violations. Our analysis of the qualitative data suggest that workers used the platform as a basis for collegial interactions when two simultaneous enabling conditions exist: platform-based facilitators (i.e., being community-oriented, flexible, and having features that align with taken-for-granted work values), and organization-based facilitators (i.e., emergent platform stewards, existing communication structures, and leader affirmations of the platform). When workers adopted the platform as a basis for collegial interactions, they engaged in synchronous and asynchronous activating co-experiences, experiences that were physiologically (e.g., endorphins and serotonin) and socially (i.e., a sense of co-presence) activating. These activating co-experiences created a sense of positive arousal that generalized to individuals’ collegial interactions, creating high quality connections that led to deeper and broader relationships with colleagues, a sense of being part of a community, and professional opportunities. While seemingly wholly positive, our data warns of simultaneously less positive dynamics. Those workers who saw the platform as exclusive, a form of surveillance, and/or a threat to their personal-professional boundaries, were more likely to opt-out of bringing the platform into their collegial interactions. Further, those who did use the platform to connect with their colleagues risked being seen as cliquey and violating organizational justice norms. Our findings contribute to the literature on work relationships by shedding light on how a virtual space that resides outside of formal organizational boundaries can enable colleagues’ positive relational experiences while also highlighting how these very same relational experiences can be problematic.

Research is the heart of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), and we want to make sure that we support each other in developing high quality research. To that end, we created the Adderley Positive Research Incubator for sharing and encouraging POS-related research ideas that are at various stages of development.

Learn more about the Adderley Positive Research Incubators here and direct questions about individual sessions to cpo-events@umich.edu.