With more and more companies using enterprise social networks (ESN) for employee communication and collaboration, the influence of ESN on organizational hierarchies has been subject of countless discussions in practice-oriented media and first academic studies. Conversely, the question whether and how formal organizational hierarchies influence ESN usage behavior has not yet been addressed. Drawing on a rich data set comprising 2.5 years of relationship building via direct messages, confirmed contact requests, and group messages, we are able to show that formal hierarchies have an important impact on social networking behavior. By applying means of social network analysis and supported by statements from interviews, we illustrate how deeply formal hierarchy impacts the three examined types of relationships. Our results motivate academics to further study the interrelation between hierarchy und ESN and hierarchy’s effects regarding the sociotechnical design and implementation of related systems.
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