Social Networks -- or the "Informal Organization" -- at Work

Posted by: Reena Jana on July 31, 2007

There’s so much buzz about social networks of the online kind — MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn. But what about old fashioned human-to-human, face-to-face “social networks,” and how we use them in the physical world, especially in the workplace? I just read some stats in a new survey that reveals that employees of large companies (with 1,000+ on staff) rely on their self-generated social networks of co-workers for advice, rather than turn to their bosses and superiors.

The survey calls the web of employees’ self-made connections within a company the “informal organization,” but I’d argue that these are social networks, too. It would be great to discover how people are using internal or external social networking software to leverage these contacts and relationships within a corporation. Any anecdotes? Do write in. More on the Katzenbach survey after the jump.

The survey, released on July 31, polled 510 employees at large companies via telephone, was conducted by Katzenbach Partners, a management consulting firm founded by a former McKinsey director and the co-founders of the McKinsey Change Center. (Katzenbach's client list includes Pfizer and Aetna). Some nuggets:

- 65% said they rely on co-workers rather than managers to solve problems

- 90% say they have someone in their informal network at the office whom they turn to for advice on completing a project or task. 52% of this majority say they turn to a co-worker rather than a boss (in comparison, 45% turn to a supervisor)

-Only 8% think the CEO or president has the best ideas. And even fewer -- 7% -- believe senior managers have them. But 10% believe middle managers' ideas trump those of their superiors. And 15% of those polled think lower-level managers and employees have the top ideas. (Note: Of course it would be interesting to know if the majority of survey participants were, say, lower-level managers.)

Reader Comments


December 30, 2008 9:12 AM

Face to face human contact still reigns supreme in my view, and so it should for we all need interaction and touch.
It's quite apparent when living or visiting foregin lands. We all ask each other things like, where's the best dentist or where can I get my car fixed.
I can't imagine anyone just sticking a pin in the local newspaper or yellow pages.

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