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10/28/2005 Archived Entry: "Playgrounds and Networking"

Just finished a conversation with someone who was ranting about people who don’t return phone calls/emails. I agree that it’s damn annoying – you call on a person for a little help and they are nowhere to be found. But when they need you, it’s like best-friend paranoia – they’d do anything for “five minutes” with you. But what happens when you are on the receiving end? Isn’t best-friend paranoia’ one of the most annoying of things? Suddenly, a parallel – both lines are annoying.

Be honest. Annoyed 1: when some people (especially super networkers) treat us like speed bumps in a parking lot. Annoyed 2: when we are called upon to transact by a persistent colleague who perceives us as a super networker.

I think it boils down to playground perceptions. Colleagues who never return calls/emails or who never share their networks are looked negatively by the collective – this behavior can even draw suspicion and derision (the bane of networking). This brings to mind the very first social lessons I learned as a child.

For instance, the best networkers exhibit teamsmanship, the esprit de corps of good professional behavior, by sharing their network as often and as liberally as possible; which, by the way, is the crux of Karl Marx’s well-trod axiom for networking according to ability and receiving according to need. Then there is the capitalistic element of quid pro quo; i.e., do for me; do for you; which is like sharing but also exposes the structure of these relationships – rewards for playing ‘nice’ (e.g., returning calls) and penalties for being lazy and mean (e.g., never sharing, never returning calls). There is more to this, I’m sure… but the point I’m groping around for is that no matter how far we run, we still do not stray far from the playground.

Gotta go count my marbles… -HP

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