Rapid Relationality: How Peripheral Experts Build a Foundation for Influence with Line Managers. By: DiBenigno, Julia. Administrative Science Quarterly. Mar2020, Vol. 65 Issue 1, p20-60. 41p. 2 Diagrams, 2 Charts.

This paper develops grounded theory to understand how and when experts in lower-power peripheral roles can develop influential relationships with higher-power line managers in core functions to regularly elicit their cooperation. I use data from an ethnographic study of experts in peripheral roles—mental health professionals hired by the U.S. Army to provide rehabilitative services to active-duty soldiers suffering from conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—and the line managers in core functions they depended on for their soldier-care recommendations to be followed—their soldiers’ direct commanders. I analyze relational histories of 56 commander–provider dyads and detail a three-phase process model I refer to as “rapid relationality.” Through the process of rapid relationality, mental health professionals capitalized on short windows of opportunity to quickly develop influential relationships with commanders, despite lacking formal authority over them, before a series of minor conflicts or a major conflict threatened their burgeoning influence. My analysis suggests it is not only what peripheral experts do that allows them to elicit cooperation from line managers but also when and how quickly they do it that matters. Speed and taking early action are important because experts cannot predict when conflict will occur and hence may have short initial windows of opportunity for establishing an influential relationship. I further find that some experts have fewer tactics available to them or must use more time-consuming and energy-intensive tactics than others to achieve the same relational influence based on their personal characteristics (e.g., gender). As a result, it may be harder for some experts to achieve relational influence before their window of opportunity closes.