Virtually (in)separable: The centrality of relational cadence in the formation of virtual multiplex relationships

Beth S. Schinoff, Blake E. Ashforth, Kevin G. Corley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The increasing use of technology and rise of virtual work has fundamentally changed how employees interact with each other. No longer can employees reliably predict when and where their coworkers will work, transforming the very ways in which coworker relationships unfold over time. This is perhaps especially true for coworker multiplex relationships, which fuse a coworker relationship with a friendship relationship and strongly affect job satisfaction and turnover intentions. Through a qualitative study of a Fortune 500 technology firm with a largely remote workforce, we build theory on how virtual coworkers form friendships with each other on the path to multiplexity. Our emergent theory reveals the centrality of “relational cadence”—perceived convergence in the patterns of interaction between oneself and a particular coworker—to the establishment and growth of these relationships. It also differentiates work-related from friendship-related cadence, stresses the symbiosis of these cadences in multiplexity, and emphasizes the importance of temporal rhythm and understanding relational particulars (the nature of the specific coworker relationship) in the development of each form of cadence. These findings highlight how virtualization affects the experience of relating at work, and thereby make important contributions to literatures on relationships at work, coworker friendships, and virtual relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1395-1424
Number of pages30
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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