Secondhand social capital: Boundary spanning, secondhand closure, and individual performance

Neha P. Shah, Daniel Z. Levin, Rob Cross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


We move beyond the performance returns of individuals’ direct network connections to study the effects of “secondhand” social capital, i.e., from the networks of one's contacts. We propose that certain colleagues may be more valuable to one's job performance than others when their spillovers of novel information combine with spillovers of the cooperation needed to obtain that novelty. In a study of 1273 research and development employees across 16 business units, we find that the most benefit to one's own performance comes from having ties that span business units and that also include secondhand closure (i.e., where one's contacts are each embedded in a constrained, dense network). Bridging the organizational boundary provides the novelty; and secondhand closure provides the cooperation. Further, by examining who in the network is constraining these contacts, we are able to trace their cooperative motivation both to reputational and organizational identity concerns, which each create a spillover of cooperation toward the focal individual, who reaps the returns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-27
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Networks
StatePublished - Jan 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Psychology(all)


  • Boundary spanning
  • Help seeking
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Secondhand closure
  • Secondhand social capital
  • Social networks
  • Work performance

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