Clean up your network: how a strike changed the social networks of a working team

Kirsten Thommes*, Agnes Akkerman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to analyse the impact of an intra-team conflict on the social relations within a team. The team conflict was triggered by a strike action which separated the team in two groups, the strikers and the worker, who continued to work. After the strike was settled, all had to work again cooperatively. This paper analyses how the strike action affects work and private social networks among workers. Design/methodology/approach: The authors combine a qualitative ethnographic approach with quantitative network data. Findings: The authors find that the strike action led to a separation between the former group of strikers and non-strikers. While the subgroups become more cohesive and their social network density increased, the links between both groups diminished. Research limitations/implications: This study reveals that strikes and the accompanying separation of the workforce can improve social relations within the team, if individuals behaved alike during the conflict. Practical implications: For managers, the results raise questions concerning typical managerial behaviour during strikes, as managers frequently trigger separation by trying to convince some individuals to continue to work. Instead, groups may even improve their performance after a strike, if they were allowed to behave alike by all joining the strike or refraining. Originality/value: This study is the first to analyse social relations after a conflict. The authors combine qualitative and quantitative data and show the evolution of a social network after a strike. Moreover, they separate private communication flows and work-related communication and show that both networks do not necessarily evolve equally after a conflict.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-63
Number of pages21
JournalTeam Performance Management
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Conflict
  • Social interaction
  • Team working

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