Social structures are social arrangements that arise through the interactions of individuals and simultaneously determine them. The organisation of firms, communities and society at large constitute social structures that shape individual behaviour. In turn, individuals influence social structures.
This project focuses on the interplay between organisational structures and social interactions at the workplace and in society at large.
One instance of social interactions at work are collaborations which then become formalised as teams. These team structures are determined by the environment as well as by the incentives provided. For instance, we would expect the recent increase in the share of women in many workplaces to change interactions and ultimately social structures. How interactions change further depends on whether gender diversity in teams is beneficial for obtaining the outcomes team members, firms, or the wider society would like to achieve. Team members may wish to further their careers, firms would like to increase profits and the wider society would like for welfare to be maximal. These different objectives may or may not be aligned. If there is a discrepancy between individually and socially optimal outcomes, an intervention is required.
Such an intervention can be provided by managers, community leaders, or politicians, meaning that these actors can shape social structures. For example, managers can influence workplace interactions through corporate culture. They would like to implement a culture that maximises their profits through its effect on their workers and their social interactions. This culture may not necessarily be beneficial for workers, highlighting once again a discrepancy between agents' objectives. In turn, community leaders are instrumental in creating structures that represent workers' rights, for instance through unionisation. However, for the creation of unions, which are instances of organised institutions, political support is needed. This raises a more general question as to how social structures can be created through an appropriate choice of policies. Policies generate a focal point for agents with common special interests, which then leads to a formalization of such groups.
The objective of the project is to document how social structures respond to changes in the environment and incentives. We further investigate how leaders, such as managers, politicians or community leaders, can impact social structures and under what circumstances these interventions are beneficial to society.
Financed by FWF Elise Richter Programm
Johannes Kepler University Linz
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Keplergebäude, 1st floor, Room K119B
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