A double-edged sword: The effects of social network ties on job satisfaction in primary care organizations

Health Care Manage Rev. 2022 Jul-Sep;47(3):180-187. doi: 10.1097/HMR.0000000000000314. Epub 2021 May 7.


Background: Social ties between health care workers may be an important driver of job satisfaction; however, research on this topic is limited.

Purpose: We used social network methods to collect data describing two types of social ties, (a) instrumental ties (i.e., exchange of advice that enables work) and (b) expressive ties (i.e., exchange of social support), and related those ties to workers' job satisfaction.

Methodology: We surveyed 456 clinicians and staff at 23 primary care practices about their social networks and workplace attitudes. We used multivariable linear regression to estimate the relationship between an individual's job satisfaction and two network properties: (a) eigenvector centrality (a measure of the importance of an individual in a network) and (b) ego network density (a measure of the cohesiveness of an individual's network). We examined this relationship for both instrumental and expressive ties.

Results: Individuals who were more central in the expressive network were less satisfied in their job, b = -0.40 (0.19), p < .05, whereas individuals who had denser instrumental networks were more satisfied in their job, b = 0.49 (0.21), p < .05.

Conclusion: Workplace relationships affect worker well-being. Centrality in an expressive network may require greater emotional labor, increasing workers' risk for job dissatisfaction. On the other hand, a dense instrumental network may promote job satisfaction by strengthening workers' access to full information, supporting competence and confidence.

Practice implications: Efforts to increase job satisfaction should consider both the positive and negative effects of social networks on workers' sense of well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Health Personnel* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Social Networking
  • Social Support
  • Workplace