Author(s), Title and Publication:

Sollitto, M., & Myers, S. A. (2015). Peer coworker relationships: Influences on the expression of lateral dissent. Communication Report, 28(1), 36 – 47.


Peer coworkers are defined as the connections that employees form with individuals on the same level of the organizational hierarchy with no formal authority over one another.

Organizational members frequently report that their peer coworkers are valuable for receiving work and social information, organizational adjustment, uncertainty reduction, emotional support, and reducing role ambiguity. This article reports a study that examines whether the nature of the peer coworker relationships would affect peer coworker communication, particularly expressing dissatisfaction about the organization to their coworkers (i.e. lateral dissent). Three types of peer coworker relationships were examined, including 1) information peer relationships, acquaintances characterized by low levels of intimate communication, 2) collegial peer relationships, combinations of a friend and an acquaintance characterized by moderate levels of intimate communication, and 3) special peer relationships, best friends at work characterized by high levels of intimate communication.

The researchers conducted a survey of 120 full-time employees drawn from a number of organizations. The data revealed two key findings: 1) the expression of lateral dissent was influenced by the quality of peer coworker relationships and 2) the messages that employees utilized to express dissent to their coworkers were unaffected by the quality of their relationships. Overall, employees with special and collegial peer relationships engaged in higher levels of lateral dissent than employees with information peer relationships. However, no differences emerged between information, special, and collegial peer relationships regarding employees’ use of dissent messages (i.e., humor, pressure, or exchange). The results of this study support the notion that peer coworkers serve therapeutic, supportive, and informational purposes.

Implications for Practitioners

Organizations should 1) understand that the peer coworker communication about organizational dissent is motivated by obtaining emotional support and reducing workplace stress and 2) actively create opportunities and initiatives for employee team building and help build closer bonds among employees.

Location of Article

The article is available online at:  (abstract free, purchase full article)


Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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