Where do weak ties come from? An empirical investigation of the antecedents of weak network ties

While the management literature provides much evidence of the role of weak network ties in a variety of organizational outcomes, it has paid relatively little attention to examining the processes which lead to the emergence of such ties. In this paper we begin to fill this gap by theorizing and empirically testing to what extent, in a given dyad, the presence of different types of homophily – i.e. the extent to which similar individuals tend to create ties with each other – leads to the emergence of a weak network tie. We go past previous views of homophily by arguing that similarity may emerge not only from demographic variables (such as gender and ethnicity), but also from common background (social similarity) and from elements of the formal organizational structure (such as physical location and project membership). We also theorize about the role played by other types of ties – advice and dependency – for the emergence of weak ties in a given dyad. We tested our hypotheses with data we collected in a US software development company. Results provide partial support for the different homophily hypotheses and full support for hypotheses associated with the type of tie, and help us outline implications and directions for future research that should lead to better understanding of the emergence of weak network ties.