The boundary spanning role: Nature, influence, communication satisfaction and gender concerns

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Lawrence, Jr. Mason


informal communication

Subject Categories

Business and Corporate Communications


This research is a case study, using a city's Chamber of Commerce, to investigate the role of boundary spanning individuals in an organization. In particular it focuses on differences among staff members, those identified both as boundary spanners and non-boundary spanners based on their level of boundary spanning activity, in terms of their power and influence, role conflict, job routinization, and communication satisfaction. Gender differences in boundary spanning and the differing functions of boundary spanners are also investigated. The research was carried out over a 10-month period and used multiple methods of investigation, both quantitative and qualitative.

Boundary spanners were identified through the use of telephone logs and a follow-up questionnaire, and were then clustered by level of boundary spanning activity. The findings indicated that both organizational leaders and co-workers perceived boundary spanners as having more influence both within and outside the organization than do non-boundary spanners.

It was also found that male boundary spanners were perceived by co-workers as having more internal and external influence than female boundary spanners. An interesting, although not statistically significant finding was that, in spanners as having greater influence than male boundary spanners.

The study further showed that within the case it was not possible to clearly differentiate between the informational and representational roles of boundary spanners. Instead five overlapping functions termed (1) transacting, (2) filtering, (3) external information acquisition and control, (4) representation, and (5) buffering by Adams (1980) were identified.

The gatekeeping role of boundary spanners was also investigated. It was found that boundary spanners are more likely to relay through informal communication, information that they've learned from outside the organization, than they are to relay that information if they must depend on formal communication. An individual's perception of the routinization of his or her organizational role was found to have an inverse relationship with perceived power. Finally, no statistically significant differences were found among levels of boundary spanning for either role conflict or communication satisfaction across the organization.


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