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Bridge Supervision: Correlates of a Boss on the Far Side of a Structural Hole

Ronald S. Burt, Song Wang
Published: 25 October 2021

Abstract: Bridge supervision occurs when the connection between manager and boss is a network bridge between separate social worlds. Improved communication technology has facilitated the use of bridge supervision. Manager and boss can easily interact by audio or on screen as a pair of people disconnected from surrounding colleagues. At what cost to manager and effective management? We argue that bridge supervision affects the way in which a manager plays his or her role, but not how well the role is played. We find clear support for the argument in a traditional corporate hierarchy. Managers operating under bridge supervision exclude the boss from their work discussion and are conservative in expressing emotion. Behavioral correlates notwithstanding, compensation and good ideas have their familiar association with network brokerage independent of bridge versus embedded supervision. In sum, bridge supervision affects manager style, but not performance. We discuss implications for future research.
Keywords: boss / bridge supervision / Behavioral / Structural / manager / effective management / supervision affects / role is played

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