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How to love networking, deal with competent jerks and inspire change

A Rotman researcher explores the significance of organizational networks

The students in Professor Tiziana Casciaro’s classes deal with some of today’s toughest management problems.

Each semester, Casciaro, who teaches in the MBA and the Initiative for Women in Business programs at Rotman, challenges her students to consider very complicated cases: how would they manage an employee who does excellent work, but constantly offends and alienates coworkers? Where would they begin if they had to upgrade or tweak operations at an organization that is very resistant to change?

Ultimately, her students are learning hard lessons about the importance and the complexities of the social networks that arise at work.

“No one can do it alone and our students are no exception. Whether they become entrepreneurs or climb the corporate ladder, their success will depend on others. That’s why it’s so crucial that they shape and structure their network so that they can benefit from the experience, knowledge and support of others.”

Casciaro, who is a professor of Organizational Behaviour and HR Management and the Jim Fisher Professor in Leadership Development, is an authority when it comes to organizational networks.


“My research is not about quick fixes or tactical tips. It’s about getting at the root of problems so that we can arrive at meaningful solutions”

-Tiziana Casciaro, Jim Fisher Professor in Leadership Development, Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management


Through her research, she strives to better understand workplace interactions, the great agents of change, networking and power dynamics in corporate settings. Because her academic findings are rooted in data — including human resources and archival data, and information she’s collected through surveys and social experiments — she’s able to offer some robust theories on management best practices that are applicable across a range of settings.

“My research is not about quick fixes or tactical tips. It’s about getting at the root of problems so that we can arrive at meaningful solutions.”

For instance, with her research on networking, which she summarized for non-academic readers in a 2016 Harvard Business Review article, she puts her findings into context, so that working professionals can reframe their views on networking.

“For most of us, networking can make us feel dirty or exploitative,” she says. “To correct that feeling, we need to change our mindset about networking. Instead of thinking of it as a necessary evil and a one-way flow of knowledge, we should see networking as an opportunity to learn and to contribute to others’ learning. That mindset will make our interactions with contacts more meaningful and energizing.”

In another Harvard Business Review article, she used her published research to explain how employees and managers choose the people they work with and potential issues that arise from these decisions. For instance, though most of us prefer to work with people who are both capable and warm, Casciaro considers how managers might handle ‘competent jerks’ or ‘lovable fools’ and provides advice, based on what’s she’s observed in the data.

Whether it’s in her teaching or writing, Casciaro tries to bring concepts from her research to life for her students and the managers she advises.

“At the heart of it, I hope my research and lectures can bring it all together for them. I want them to know how they should be thinking about the dilemmas they’ll come up against in their professional lives.”


Written by Rebecca Cheung | More Rotman Insights »

Meet the Researcher

Tiziana Casciaro

Tiziana Casciaro

Jim Fisher Professor in Leadership Development, Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management


Read her full biography »


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