As I sat in my first strategy client meeting today, discussing PR tactics and eyeing the Tim Tams someone conveniently placed on the table, the subject of networking came up; or rather, the lack there of in the company. The problem was that the employees in the company networked much less (well, actually, not at all) than senior people in the company. I don’t know if that’s always true so I won’t make a generalisation, but it is definitely true for the people and the companies I’ve had a chance to speak to. Based on this I’ve developed my own (cynical) explanations for networking laziness:
- People don’t do things unless there’s something in it for them: as the boss, why should you expect people to network on your behalf? What personal benefit would the staff get out of it? I, for example, love networking but if you ask me to go to a networking event for accountants because you want to me to find you an accountant I’ll refuse to go because I don’t care about accounting and it has no value for me.
- People don’t understand reasons for networking and how it ties in to business: When people don’t know why they are doing something, they are less likely to do it, especially if it involves effort and especially if it’s ‘extracurricular’ effort.
- Networking is hard: many people find networking outside of their comfort zone. I mean, it’s a bit like being a clown in a circus. You have to be entertaining enough to make sure that some randoms you’ve never met before keep paying attention to you. In the evening. Far far from home. When all you probably want to do is eat, drink, sloth and sleep.
- Work life balance: personal circumstances can be a bitch. If you have to suffer through terrifying traffic/stuffy bus rides/cramped train rides you’ll be justified in telling anyone who tries to force you into networking, to F^$$K off.
To sum it up: People are motivated by their own self interests. ‘What’s in it for me’ makes the world go round. Even those of us who do seemingly selfless humanitarian acts do them out of self interest: gratification, satisfaction, personal sense of self worth, achievement, the feeling of being needed… you get my drift. It always comes down to reasons. And it follows that everything you do should have a good reason…. correction: a reason that’s good for you. So when people think about networking they should think about their whys. And when bosses want their people to network they should think about the team, not about their own goals. Because let’s face it, the best way to get someone to do something, is to give them a reason that’s good for them.