Insidious Perils of Networking

4 02 2011

A new study published last month estimates that 89 percent of networking encounters occur forcibly and without the consent of one of the parties involved, a disturbing finding that suggests far more people are victims of unwanted career-related discussions than was previously thought. The study examined data from thousands of abusive incidents in which individuals were compelled against their will to assist another’s professional ambitions. The report incorporated interviews with hundreds of others who were violated by acts of nonconsensual networking, many of whom described similarly traumatic and dehumanizing experiences.

The details vary, but in each case the victims described how ordinary chitchat rapidly escalated to terrifyingly detailed conversations about skill sets and career paths. What makes this especially disturbing is that these attacks often take place in an isolated space. The assailant might force the victim into a remote corner of a dinner party, or follow him/her into the parking lot after a brief coffee shop encounter. These assaults have also been known to occur in full view of witnesses, who, more often than not, do nothing to stop it.

“It all happened so fast,” said an unidentified woman, her voice breaking. “We were just making small talk, when out of nowhere he pounced, asking me if my company was in the market for a new insurance provider. Before I even realized what was happening, I had a business card in my hand. I can still smell the booze on his breath.”

It is not uncommon for people who have been brutally networked to blame themselves for what was done to them. They might, for example, believe that their business-casual attire provoked the networker or that standing alone in the corner of a cocktail party was somehow “asking for it.” Networking victims often feel dirty and humiliated. But it’s not their fault. It’s the fault of the animals who did this to them.

The study holds out hope that this research will not only encourage more victims to come forward, but will also reassure others that the act of networking, when consensual, does not have to be a traumatic or shameful act.


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