Does networking make you feel dirty?

by Sarah Megginson02 Oct 2014
Not a fan of networking? The anxiety you feel after “working the room” could be caused by your underlying belief that networking is largely a selfish pursuit, according to a new study.

In fact, professional networking can create feelings of “moral impurity and physical dirtiness”, the study – co-authored by researchers at Harvard Business School, Northwestern University and the University of Toronto – has found.

“[When networking], people may feel that they cannot justify their actions to themselves,” said study co-author Prof. Tiziana Casciaro, an associate professor of organisational behaviour and HR management at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

The lack of justification comes from the fact that people often frame networking as being a selfish concern, rather than being motivated by a concern for other people.

In other words, while you do not enter a networking event with a specific favour to ask or outcome to achieve, the underlying intention of every person in the room is to make new contacts and build new relationships that could potentially benefit them in the future.

An aversion to networking can put people back in their careers, Casciaro said, as they tend to miss out on career opportunities and record lower job performance.

“Those already in power are more comfortable with networking and continue to reinforce and advance their positions. By contrast, those with less power feel more tainted by networking – even though they need it the most – and may have a harder time advancing themselves or improving their job performance,” she said.

To conquer your networking fears, Casciaro suggested you view networking as “a two-way street, where people see themselves as having something to offer, even if they’re still an outsider or junior in the business,” she said. “Don’t underestimate what you can give.”


 

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