Long Shadows of the Past: Resource Imprinting and Individual Performance in Organisations

Date, Time, Venue

19 October 2011, Wednesday 15.30-16.45

University College London

1st floor Exec-Ed room, 

Engineering Front Building ("Malet place" in Google maps)


This study examines how the intraorganizational resource environment at the time when
individuals join an organization leaves a lasting imprint on them and how that imprint affects their subsequent performance. I contend that the more similar the initially experienced level of resource abundance to the level of resource abundance in a subsequent period, the higher the focal individual’s job performance. Under some fairly general assumptions about intraorganizational resource fluctuations over an individual’s tenure, I show that this mechanism leads to an inverted U-shaped relationship between initial resource abundance and average future job performance. This suggests a paradox of plenty: ironically, highly prosperous initial conditions are less beneficial for average future performance than are moderate initial conditions.
Further, I argue that these effects will be especially strong if one’s own formative experiences are reinforced by secondhand imprinting, that is, the imprints of one’s initial coworkers. A multimethod study of professionals in two information technology services firms supports these predictions. This research uncovers several mechanisms whereby past organizational conditions impinge on present individual outcomes, thus shedding new light on the intertwined fortunes of individuals and organizations.


András Tilcsik is a Ph.D. candidate in Organizational Behavior at Harvard University. His research examines how organizational and institutional environments affect individuals' performance and opportunities within organizations. He studies, in particular, three such phenomena: (1) imprinting, whereby intra-organizational economic and social structural conditions at the time of organizational entry exert a lasting influence on individual performance; (2) the effect of workplace discrimination on individuals’ opportunity structures; (3) and the potential of macro-level institutional changes to dramatically increase the influence of some actors at the expense of others within organizations.

András has published his work in the American Journal of Sociology and the Academy of Management Journal and has won several research awards, including the 2011 James D. Thompson Award from the Organizations, Occupations, and Work section of the American Sociological Association.

András has served as teaching fellow or facilitator in undergraduate, doctoral, and executive courses at Harvard and received several teaching awards, including the Derek C. Bok Award for Excellence, the highest teaching award given to a graduate student for undergraduate teaching at Harvard University.