When cooperation turns ugly: exploring the dark side of social capital
Qualitative research in organization and management
PurposeThis article explores theoretical assumptions regarding negative consequences of social capital in the empirical case of a failed cooperation project, and how these consequences are related to processes involving people, structures and environments.Design/methodology/approachThe article is based on a case study of a cooperation project within municipal labor market services. The methodology followed a theorizing process, where data were collected through ethnographical methods and
... methods and analyzed in relation to existing concepts from theories describing negative effects of social capital and shadow organizing.FindingsThe results highlight how the development of negative social capital in the project can be understood through three relational processes, namely the social dynamics of insulation, homogenization and escalating commitment. The authors conclude that the quality of social capital is conditional upon complex interactions within social structures. Moreover, the results highlight the importance of studying organizing practices outside explicit structures, in order to identify the development of non-canonical practices and their consequences.Practical implicationsOrganizing cooperation projects that aim to bridge professional competencies or organizational boundaries have to be attentive toward informal organizing practices which if remaining unrecognized may grow and threaten the original intentions.Originality/valueThe study makes a theoretical contribution by combining a shadow organizing approach with literature on social capital. This combination proves especially useful for analyzing how organizational dynamics can influence the development of social capital into producing negative effects.