Attachment, decay, and social network



To study decay in attachment to an organization, I analyse data on women who obtained an MBA from the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business (GSB). I measure attachment in terms of network embedding: an alumna is attached to the GSB to the extent that people close to her graduated from the GSB. Behavioral data corroborate the network data in that alumnae measured to be more attached are more likely to have joined an alumni club and made a financial contribution to the school. The hypothesis is that alumnae attachment will decay over time, more slowly when the school is deeply embedded in an alumna's network, more quickly when disruptive events compete for the alumna's time and energy. As expected, attachment declines across the years after graduation (linearly for the first 20 years to about half its initial level), and decay is inhibited when connections with GSB graduates are embedded in stable relations of family, work, or long-term friendship. Decay is remarkably robust to events after graduation (which account for only 2 per cent of explained variance in attachment). In other words, an alumna's attachment today was largely determined while she was in school. The results should be of practical value to people who design programmes to build personal attachment to organizations, and of theoretical interest to scholars who study such connections. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.