There are some people who actually do enjoy job networking–very outgoing social types, for instance, or blatant ladder-climbers in the Pete Campbell mold–but the rest of us simply endure it for the sake of our careers. For the record, it does seem to help. Studies have tied networking to various measures of professional success, including promotions and workplace influence; a 2009 paper linked it to salary and career satisfaction.
Casciaro and her fellow researchers wanted to see what effect this occasionally unpleasant job requirement has on our frames of mind. They focused on what they term professional instrumental networking: very deliberate efforts to create a social tie that supports a self-interested career goal. This differed from personal instrumental networking, which might be deliberate but strives for a two-way relationship, and from spontaneous networking, which might be professional or personal but occurs naturally (at a party, say) instead of being premeditated.
There are plenty of reasons professional instrumental networking might feel a little morally slippery. Its end goal is extremely selfish (to leverage someone else’s experience into personal gain) and the means are potentially exploitative (to do this even if the other party doesn’t fully appreciate what’s happening). You might not feel like a bad person after networking on the job, but you probably don’t feel like a righteous one, either.
The draft report is called “The Contaminating Effects Of Building Instrumental Ties: How Networking Can Make Us Feel Dirty“.