The Contaminating Effects of Building Instrumental Ties: How Networking Can Make Us Feel Dirty

Tiziana Casciaro, Francesca Gino, Maryam Kouchaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

172 Scopus citations


In this paper, we examine the consequences of social networking for an individual’s morality, arguing that the content and approach of networking have different implications for how a person feels during the development and maintenance of social ties. We focus in particular on professional-instrumental networking: the purposeful creation of social ties in support of task and professional goals. Unlike personal networking in pursuit of emotional support or friendship, and unlike social ties that emerge spontaneously, instrumental networking in pursuit of professional goals can impinge on an individual’s moral purity—a psychological state that results from viewing the self as clean from a moral standpoint—and thus make an individual feel dirty. We theorize that such feelings of dirtiness decrease the frequency of instrumental networking and, as a result, work performance. We conducted four studies using both field and laboratory data from different populations to investigate the psychological consequences of networking behaviors. Two experiments provide support for a causal relationship between instrumental networking for professional goals, feeling dirty, and need for cleansing. A survey study of lawyers in a large North American business law firm offers correlational evidence that professionals who experience feelings of dirtiness from instrumental networking, relative to those who do not, tend to engage in it less frequently and have lower job performance. With regard to sources of variability in dirtiness from instrumental networking for professional goals, we document that when those who engage in such networking have high versus low power, they experience fewer feelings of dirtiness. An additional experimental study constructively replicates this finding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)705-735
Number of pages31
JournalAdministrative Science Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 8 2014


  • dirtiness
  • morality
  • networking
  • power
  • professional networking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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