Typically when people think about networking they refer to making connections that help them obtain goods, services, land a new job, or earn a promotion. In all these examples one is benefitting by taking from someone else.

Whether in personal or professional networking, instrumental networking is for the benefit of one party, as a result of taking something from others. In personal situations, one example of instrumental networking is befriending someone who has access to good seats tickets for sporting events and concerts. In professional situations, employees may form relationships with CEOs as a means to get a job or earn a promotion. In both cases one person is taking from another person as their primary purpose for the relationship.

Instrumental networking makes many people feel that they are infringing on others because these relationships are seen as “one-sided” instead of mutually beneficial. Experts have shown that instrumental networking makes people feel “dirty” because individuals generally feel that it is immoral behavior. The creation of instrumental ties has the potential to be hazardous to large groups–as creating too many instrumental ties can create taking cultures. These “taking cultures” can become toxic and lead to increasingly less cooperative behavior, a detriment to company culture.

Networking does not have to be and should not be one sided. Another approach to networking is to take a giving approach as highlighted by University of Pennsylvania Wharton Professor Adam Grant. He has done extensive research on the benefits of being a giver and being part of a giving culture as opposed to taking and taker cultures. Grant stresses the importance of turning takers into givers, allowing individuals to feel like their work is more meaningful when they help others find success.

Last year Grant had the opportunity to interview Keith Ferrazzi, author of New York Times bestseller Never Eat Alone, which highlights the importance of networking and relationships. Ferrazzi shared that to be a successful it is important to always boost your “currency.” He uses the term “currency” to describe three main qualities  to focus on to assimilate into a giving culture – generosity, professionalism, and relating to what others care about.

Research supports the belief that those in giving cultures who focus on the positives of personal and professional networking are more likely to succeed than those in taking cultures who focus on using networking for individual gain. Grant has shown that ultimately givers take all. First, people love being given, or receiving, anything from help to gifts to bonuses. Naturally, the more people you know the more you can give. People will often not only reciprocate but give back even more than you gave them resulting in more individual success and growth. Additionally, the organization grows because everyone is able to expand their skill set and knowledge. The obligation to give more than you receive organically develops a giving culture.

Surrounding oneself with other givers promotes a giving culture, perpetuating a giving cycle among givers. Like Grant suggests, it is important to convert takers into givers, because even givers would ultimately become reluctant to give when they are knowingly being taken advantage of by takers.

In all, it is evident that givers and members of a giving culture benefit the most. Givers often receive more than they have been given, there is increased camaraderie between colleagues, and a mutual desire to help each other succeed. People who give help and receive help are significantly more likely to buy into the company’s vision. These individuals have higher morale, focus, and drive because they know that their colleagues are “in their corner.” Despite all the focus on individuals, the biggest winner in giving cultures is the organization because giving ultimately helps productivity and the organization’s bottom line.  Looking at networking through a giving lens makes the experience more enjoyable and ultimately more beneficial to all.

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