American Sociological Association

Fitting In or Standing Out? The Tradeoffs of Structural and Cultural Embeddedness

A recurring theme in sociological research is the tradeoff between fitting in and standing out. Prior work examining this tension tends to take either a structural or a cultural perspective. We fuse these two traditions to develop a theory of how structural and cultural embeddedness jointly relate to individual attainment within organizations. Given that organizational culture is hard to observe, we develop a novel approach to assessing individuals’ cultural fit with their colleagues based on the language expressed in internal e-mail communications. Drawing on a unique dataset that includes a corpus of 10.24 million e-mail messages exchanged over five years among 601 employees in a high-technology firm, we find that network constraint impedes, whereas cultural fit promotes, individual attainment. More importantly, we find evidence of a tradeoff between the two forms of embeddedness: cultural fit benefits individuals with low network constraint (i.e., brokers), whereas network constraint promotes attainment for people with low cultural fit.


Goldberg, A., Srivastava, S. B., Manian, V. G., Monroe, W., Potts, C.





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