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Professional Networking: When Good Networks Backfire
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Professional Networking: When Good Networks Backfire - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: When Good Networks Backfire

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: When Good Networks Backfire

You’ve got a job at a great company. A position opens up for the third time in a year, so someone asks you if you know anyone who could fit in. It’s a flattering thing to be asked, so you search your network for someone (a) who could do the job well and (b) would see it as an opportunity to move into something better. Your company is helped by finally finding someone great and your friend is helped with a chance to improve his life. It’s not exactly a test of the length or breadth of your network, but it’s the kind of thing that happens when networking goes well.

But what happens when things don’t work out? If there is some kind of mutual, amicable parting of ways, there may be a few relationship bruises, but good friendships will survive such bumps in the road. However, if things really explode, with hurt feelings on one side and disappointment on the other, the credibility of your recommendation can be questioned, and that’s really the least damaging result. Your firm will expend more resources in finding a good match, and your friend’s confidence in himself can be injured beyond the healing effectiveness of a good pep talk. At its worst, your friend may feel betrayed by being led into a bad situation by a friend he’s no longer sure of.

In cases where networks are heavily intertwined, you could find yourself in a situation where sides are taken, despite your best efforts to keep things professional. This can result in major realigning of your network, testing relationships all around. If one friend decides to disconnect from your network, he or she may unintentionally (or intentionally) take a huge chunk of your network along.

Things can get even worse. You may find yourself in a new position, thanks to a connection on the inside. You love your job and you love the people who work there, but then several months later, the friend decides the company has acted in an unethical way. She leaves on principal, and several of her other friends leave with her. Do you leave in support of your friend, the one whose influence got you the position? Or do you stay and honor your commitment to the firm who entrusted you with a job slightly beyond your on-paper qualifications? If you were placed in a management position, you also need to consider your commitment to those who report to you, especially if you filled those positions from (of course!) your own network.

Ultimately, although there are multiple crevices in the complicated maze of professional life, you have to do what’s right for you, balancing your financial and professional needs with your ethics and beliefs. You, like your friends who left before you, will know when things have gone too far, and you’ll have to trust others in your network to understand, and to believe that they will make their own decisions in similar fashion. Your influence may have connected people to their jobs, but what happens from there is up to them, and you can offer support, but your obligation is too complex most times to say, “If she goes, I go,” or “I’m staying because you’re staying.

When networking is managed well, it’s always about healthy relationships, but all relationships are tested somewhere along the way. We all enter into agreements like this with a certain professional expectation that sometimes things don’t work out. If you are clear about this with your friends, and agree ahead of time that personal relationships will be maintained no matter what, you are more likely to find that good networks can survive even the most convoluted, soap-opera stories.


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Professional Networking: When Good Networks Backfire - Executive Leadership Articles

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