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More proof of the corruptive effects of phatic elements in the workplace

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transverse-selectionUniversity of Pennsylvania social network researcher Lynn Wu recently discovered a perfect example of transverse selection.

After analyzing several years of anonymized electronic communications from 8000+ employees of a tech firm, she found that while instrumental communications about practical matters drove productivity, social communications about sports and primate food-sharing rituals—like lunches and coffee breaks—drove retention during lay-offs.

More importantly, she found that these two types of communication were substitutes for each other, meaning that they can’t occupy the same network space at the same time.

In simpler terms: practical thinkers did the mission, but social thinkers kept their jobs when push came to shove.

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