CFP: Relational Pluralism of Individuals, Teams, and Organizations


Special Research Forum of the Academy of Management Journal on “Relational Pluralism of Individuals, Teams and Organizations”.

The guest editors are Ranjay Gulati, Martin Kilduff, Stan Li, Andrew Shipilov and Wenpin Tsai.

Submissions are due between September 1 and October 31, 2011.

Below is a shortened call for papers:

An ancient paradox that has modern relevance is that individuals have multiple selves from which unique identities are formed. From the time of the ancient Greeks up to the present, debate has raged concerning whether to place the emphasis on the plurality of selves or the unitary nature of identity. The contribution of psychologist William James (1890: 294) was particularly influential in asserting that a person had as many social selves as they were other individuals who recognized the person and carried an image of the person in their mind. The sociologist Georg Simmel (1955: 150) added further insight with his description of how individuals became unique to the extent that they affiliated with many different non-overlapping groups. It is from these influential psychological and sociological sources that we derive the idea for this Special Research Forum.

We define relational pluralism as the extent to which a focal entity (whether a person, a team, or an organization) derives its meaning and possibility of action from relations with other entities.

Studies are already beginning to examine the phenomenon of relational pluralism and its implications. At the individual level, work has focused on how individuals develop multiple identities (Pratt & Rafaeli, 1997), but this work did not directly examine how these identities shift depending on the configuration of heterogeneous relations in organizational settings (Mehra, Kilduff, & Brass, 1998). At the dyadic level, we know that the extent to which people confirm to each other’s identities affects cooperation and performance at work (Milton & Westphal, 2005). But these rich processes of identity confirmation have yet to be explored with respect to conflicting identities deriving from heterogeneous relations.

At the team level, theories and empirical research have examined linkages between social structures and team-level outcomes (Hansen, 1999; Oh, Chung, & Labianca, 2004; Roberson & Colquitt, 2005), but have not explored the origins and consequences of multiple types of inter-team relations.

At the firm level there are conflicting arguments about the consequences of relational pluralism, ranging from the recognition that multiplexity in relationships (Baker and Faulkner, 2002) and competitive positions lead to lower competition (Gimeno & Woo, 1996) to warnings that heterogeneous relations can damage stock market value (Zuckerman, 1999).

Consequently, there is more work to be done to analyze the origins and outcomes of relational pluralism. We are interested in work at different levels and work that derives from psychological, sociological, economic and other traditions. Relevant theoretical perspectives that explore relational pluralism could include social identity theory, distinctiveness theory, leader-member exchange theory, institutional theory, resource dependence theory, relational demography, the resource based view of the firm, and social network theory. Relevant methods could range from qualitative (participant observation, interviews, case studies) to quantitative (analysis of text, survey or archival data). We particularly welcome combinations of methods (e.g., the use of diary data together with social network analysis) in order to capture relevant phenomena such as the emergence of multiplex relations.

Here is a sampling of possible topics:
• the dynamics of relational pluralism, including questions concerning how heterogeneity in social structure is shaped by cognition, and how individuals and organizations develop multiple identities in their struggle for power and control;
• the emergence of hybrid organizational forms from heterogeneous interdependencies;
• the origins of relational pluralism, including studies of the evolution from relational singularity to relational plurality;
• the social contexts from which relational pluralism derives, including studies of how these contexts promote or restrict the formation, maintenance, and recombination of relationships;
• the consequences of relational pluralism, including how heterogeneity and its management affect individual, organizational, and systemic outcomes;
• relational pluralism across levels (individual, team, organizational unit), including questions of how relational pluralism at one level affects the emergence of status and power at another;
• implications of relational pluralism for managerial practice and public policy.

More information on this Special Research Forum as well as the expanded call for papers can be obtained at: