Researchers have long believed that social interactions at work impact a person’s career trajectory, but actually measuring that impact can be difficult, says Zoë Cullen, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. In a paper recently published in the American Economic Review, Cullen and Ricardo Perez-Truglia—using administrative and survey data from a large Southeast Asian bank—show that employees are promoted at a higher rate when they have more face-to-face time with their manager. “This mechanism,” the authors write, “could explain a third of the gender gap in promotions at this firm.” Their findings echo earlier research about the risks of proximity bias, and have implications for structuring hybrid-work arrangements.

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