Brokers Behaving Badly: How Tertius Separans Brokering Leads to Burnout and Abusive Behavior



Advantages flow to those who engage in social network brokerage, but consequent psychological costs and injurious behaviors are neglected. We build new theory concerning the extent to which brokerage results in burnout, with consequent abusive behavior toward coworkers. Brokering places cognitive, emotional, and psychological demands on brokers, demands that are not always met with sufficient resources. We distinguish between tertius iungens, involving bringing people together for project completion; and tertius separans, involving maintaining disconnections between third parties. Engagement in tertius separans burdens the broker with demands while limiting access to resources such as time, energy, and social support. In contrast, tertius iungens replenishes through the experience of facilitating coordination between separated people in pursuit of mutual gains. Across three studies, we find that tertius separans leads to abusive behavior as mediated by broker burnout. First, we conducted a five-month study in Colombia of burnout among 1551 university employees. Second, we examined time-separated data on burnout and coworker abuse among 136 employees of US organizations. Third, we conducted an experiment of the differential effects of brokering type on outcomes for 216 employed adults. Across studies we find consistent support that tertius separans increases the risk of burnout and consequent abusive behavior.

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Meeting ID: 930 0899 4633

Passcode: 411056