What Relationships Produce Social Capital?
In our interview with Laurie Anspach of Painting for Good Causes, we learned that it’s possible for social capital to stem from a relationship characterized not by trust, but by shared values. We wanted to explore some other types of relationships that can produce social capital and found the perfect starting point in Making the Team, where Thompson introduces three types of personal connections that can form on teams: friendship ties, advice ties and trust ties.
The Three Connection Types
Friendship ties are emotional connections that develop from personal rapport. They involve a voluntary exchange of ideas and assistance without the expectation of reciprocity.
Example: Tom in Operations and Bob in Marketing work in the same office and share ideas and emotional support over lunch. Even though they are close friends, they have never interacted on a work-related task, and have little awareness of each others’ professional capabilities.
Advice ties are cognitive connections formed to facilitate the completion of a task. They involve the exchange of expertise and information with the expectation of future reciprocity.
Example: Kim and Jen are teammates in the Finance division and regularly rely on each other to accomplish tasks because of their complementary skill sets. They work in different offices and have never gotten to know each other personally, only interacting transactionally over Slack.
Trust ties are relationships that involve both the emotional aspect of friendship ties and the cognitive aspect of advice ties. Trust ties come about with strong rapport and the bilateral perception of reliability. They don’t necessarily require deep friendship or frequent advice, just the presence of at least some emotional and cognitive elements.
Example: Rob and Joy are regional managers who have worked together on a few projects in the past. They were both pleasantly surprised by the timeliness and quality of the other’s work during those interactions. Recently they had the opportunity to talk at a conference and bonded over their shared experience of having toddlers at home. They now share stories over Slack about their families, seek perspective from each other on challenges at work, and look forward to opportunities to work together on team tasks.
Cultivating Trust and Social Capital
Social capital can come about with all three types of ties. Friendship ties increase the likelihood that parties will want to give resources to each other. Advice ties increase the likelihood that parties will know the type and quality of resources available. But we argue that trust ties are the most likely to produce social capital because both components are present; resources are both known and openly given.
Trust ties are most common in workplace and academic settings because they involve the cognitive component of knowing the reliability of a connection’s expertise and information. The demands of completing a task as a team often necessitate the development of advice ties and help individuals form opinions about the quality of other contributors’ work. Civic participation can also help cultivate the cognitive aspect of trust ties because of shared task work in an organizational setting.
Revisiting Shared Values
How does all this tie back to the idea of social capital stemming from relationships characterized by shared values? Looking through the lens of our three types of ties, we see strong shared values as a stand-in for certain aspects of both friendship and advice ties.
For example, an artist painting for a Heart Galleries foster child has the emotional connection (friendship tie) of relating to a particular child’s story, and the cognitive connection (advice tie) of knowing the reliability and quality of the Heart Galleries as an organization. Put together, the shared values of the artist and the nonprofit have generated a special type of trust tie that produces rich social capital in the form of compassion.