Personal goal pursuit as an antecedent to social network structure

Catherine T. Shea*, Gráinne M. Fitzsimons

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Three studies using diverse methods examine the effects of goals on instrumental mindsets and social network activation. We hypothesize that individual advancement and interpersonal affiliation goals evoke distinct patterns of interpersonal perception and motivation, which lead to the activation of sparser and denser social networks, respectively. Study 1, an experiment, found that triggering individual advancement goals (vs. affiliation goals) within a workplace domain led to the activation of sparser networks. Study 2, an experiment, found evidence of an indirect pathway, through which individual advancement goals increased the tendency to view social network contacts in an instrumental fashion, which in turn predicted the activation of sparser networks. Study 3, a longitudinal field study, found that individuals entering a new social network with strong career goals (individual-advancement goals) reported sparser networks and more central network positions; some evidence suggested that these effects may extend beyond activated networks to mobilized networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-57
Number of pages13
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Goal pursuit
  • Social networks
  • Workplace advancement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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