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Organization Science 26, 2 (2015) 373-389
To better understand the role of affect in organizational task-related networks, we developed a theory of affective primacy that identifies cognitive and motivational mechanisms through which the affective value of a social relationship (a feeling of positive affect from interactions with a colleague) operates as an antecedent of perceived instrumental value (a subjective evaluation of a relationship’s contribution to accomplishing assigned tasks). We tested this theory with full-network data collected over three years from employees in a small functional-form organization, which we analyzed with a methodology drawing from the social relations model of interpersonal perception and Bayesian models for social network analysis. We found that, over time, the affective value of social relationships influences both perceptions of instrumental value and the formation of task-related ties through multiple paths not accounted for by either perceived instrumental value or formal-structural requirements. We also show that the emergence of task-related networks rests primarily on high-activation positive emotions, such as excitement (a subjective state of feeling energized) rather than positive emotions with lower levels of activation, such as pleasantness (a subjective state of feeling gratified). We discuss implications of these findings for organizational theory and managerial practice.