Friendship at work: Inside the black box of homophily

Ajay Mehra, Diane Kang, Evgenia Dolgova

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


What explains friendship at work? The answer according to the homophily principle is that friendships are more likely among individuals who are similar. Classic work on homophily assessed similarity in terms of both demographic indicators and underlying cognitive perceptions. Organizational researchers, however, have tended to rely on a narrower, structural interpretation of homophily, one that assumes that perceptions of similarity can be bypassed because demography is a good proxy for these underlying perceptions. Using data from an organization located in North America, we open the black box of homophily and submit this assumption to empirical test. There was no support for the idea that the relationship between gender and friendship choice is mediated by underlying cognitive perceptions of similarity. We found, instead, that similarity in gender and perceptions of similarity were independently related to friendship choice. We also found evidence of heterophily when it comes to self-monitoring personality: the greater the difference in the self-monitoring scores of two individuals, the more likely they were to be friends. We close by discussing implications for theory and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnderstanding Workplace Relationships
Subtitle of host publicationAn Examination of the Antecedents and Outcomes
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9783031166402
StatePublished - Feb 20 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023. All rights reserved.


  • Friendship
  • Gender
  • Homophily
  • Self-monitoring
  • Social networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (all)
  • Business, Management and Accounting (all)


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