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Working Papers (2011), ESSEC Business School

Beyond Being There: The Symbolic Role of Communication and Identification in the Emergence of Perceived Proximity in Geographically Dispersed Work

BOYER O'LEARY M., WILSON J. M., METIU Anca

We develop the concept of perceived proximity, understood as a symbolic representation of one’s faraway coworkers. We build on Wilson et al. (2008), present new validated measures of perceived proximity, and compare how perceived proximity and objective distance relate to relationship outcomes between geographically dispersed work colleagues. Our results show strong support for a symbolic view of work relationships. Indeed, it is the symbolic meaning of proximity and not physical proximity itself that affects relationship outcomes. Also, the symbolic meaning of proximity is defined not by physical proximity, but by people’s sense of shared identity and by their use of (mostly synchronous) communication media. Furthermore, we find that how the sense of proximity is symbolically constructed mediates the effects of communication and identity on relationship outcomes.

BOYER O'LEARY, M., WILSON, J.M. and METIU, A. (2011). Beyond Being There: The Symbolic Role of Communication and Identification in the Emergence of Perceived Proximity in Geographically Dispersed Work. ESSEC Business School.