Media Releases

Networking can make some feel “dirty,” says new study

September 10, 2014

TORONTO, ON – If schmooz­ing for work leaves you with a cer­tain “ick” fac­tor, that’s not just awk­ward­ness you’re feel­ing.

Pro­fes­sion­al net­work­ing can cre­ate feel­ings of moral impu­ri­ty and phys­i­cal dirt­i­ness, shows a new study.

That can hold peo­ple back from net­work­ing more, reduc­ing career oppor­tu­ni­ties and low­er­ing job per­for­mance, says study co-author Tiziana Cas­cia­ro, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of orga­ni­za­tion­al behav­iour and human resource man­age­ment at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to’s Rot­man School of Man­age­ment. The study was co-writ­ten with fel­low researchers Prof. Francesca Gino of Har­vard Busi­ness School and Prof. Maryam Koucha­ki at North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty’s Kel­logg School of Man­age­ment.

In pro­fes­sion­al net­work­ing, “peo­ple feel that they can­not jus­ti­fy their actions to them­selves, and the lack of jus­ti­fi­ca­tion comes from the dif­fi­cul­ty peo­ple have in fram­ing some forms of net­work­ing as moti­vat­ed by a con­cern for oth­er peo­ple ver­sus a self­ish con­cern,” says Prof. Cas­cia­ro, who teach­es orga­ni­za­tion­al behav­iour at Rot­man and research­es net­works and orga­ni­za­tions.

Despite the impor­tance of net­work­ing in the busi­ness world, there has been lit­tle study of its psy­cho­log­i­cal impacts. The find­ings in this study are based on sev­er­al lab­o­ra­to­ry exper­i­ments, in addi­tion to a study of lawyers at a large North Amer­i­can legal firm.

Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, peo­ple who had more pow­er in the office were less like­ly to report feel­ing dirty when it came to net­work­ing, and engaged in it more often.  That effect can make it hard­er to pen­e­trate exist­ing pow­er struc­tures, because it means those already in pow­er are more com­fort­able with net­work­ing and con­tin­ue to rein­force and advance their posi­tions. By con­trast, those with less pow­er feel more taint­ed by net­work­ing — even though they need it the most –and may have a hard­er time advanc­ing them­selves or improv­ing their job per­for­mance.

Those neg­a­tive feel­ings can be over­come when peo­ple start to see net­work­ing as being about more than just them­selves, such as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to devel­op the net­work­er’s knowl­edge of their indus­try, with the ben­e­fit being passed on to whomev­er they work with, points out Prof. Cas­cia­ro.

Net­work­ing can also start to feel more like a two-way street when peo­ple see them­selves as hav­ing some­thing to offer, even if they’re still an out­sider or junior in the busi­ness. “Don’t under­es­ti­mate what you can give,” says Prof. Cas­cia­ro.

The study is forth­com­ing in Admin­is­tra­tive Sci­ence Quar­ter­ly.

For the lat­est think­ing on busi­ness, man­age­ment and eco­nom­ics from the Rot­man School of Man­age­ment, vis­it


For more infor­ma­tion:

Ken McGuf­fin
Man­ag­er, Media Rela­tions
Rot­man School of Man­age­ment
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Tel: 416.946.3818
Fol­low Rot­man on Twit­ter @rotmanschool
Watch Rot­man on You Tube

Jef­frey Bren­nan
Media Rela­tions Spe­cial­ist
Kel­logg School of Man­age­ment
North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty
Tel: (847) 491‑2112
Cell: (312) 771‑0126
Twit­ter @sgtjab