The lives and deaths of jobs: Technical interdependence and survival in a job structure

Organization Science26(6), 1665-1681

(with John-Paul Ferguson and Rembrand Koning)

Prior work has considered the properties of individual jobs that make them more or less likely to survive in organizations. Yet little research examines how a job’s position within a larger job structure affects its life chances and thus the evolution of the larger job structure over time. In this article, we explore the impact of technical interdependence on the dynamics of job structures. We argue that jobs that are more enmeshed in a job structure through these interdependencies are more likely to survive. We test our theory on a quarter century of personnel and job description data for the nonacademic staff of one of America’s largest public universities. Our results provide support for our key hypotheses: jobs that are more enmeshed in clusters of technical interdependence are less likely to die. At the same time, being part of such a cluster means that a job is more vulnerable if its neighbors disappear. And the “protection” of technical interdependence is contingent: it does not hold in the face of strategic change or other organizational restructurings. We offer implications of our analyses for research in organizational performance, careers, and labor markets.

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