Networking: Useful, But Possibly Unethical

Networking: Useful, But Possibly Unethical

Networking with colleagues is often held up as essential to career advancement, but can often feel awkward and sleazy. There could be a reason for that beyond simple shyness: one Australian academic argues that networking is actually unethical.

Networking picture from Shutterstock

Business Insider reports on a recent speech by UNSW ethicist Dr Ned Dobos suggests networking means that the person who gets the job won’t be the best-qualified, merely the best-connected:

If all goes according to plan, these people will take their fondness for the networker into account when making decisions that affect his/her career. That is precisely the point. If those decisions include the awarding of jobs that are the objects of competition, the networker will have successfully garnered non-merit-based favour.

Something to bear in mind if you’re in a position to hire someone else.

Networking Gives People An ‘Illegitimate Advantage Over Others In The Job Market’: Ethicist [Business Insider]


  • With the specific exception of jobs where influencing stakeholders is critical. Which I would argue is 99% of professional jobs.

  • I see this at my work. Im not the type to go to the gatherings and parties, prefering to spend that time with my kids. But the loud mouth grumpy drunk gets pissed with the boss and they love him.

    • If a loud mouth grumpy drunk is preferable to your boss rather than you.. i suggest you look inward to see what you can do to change yourself. The competition doesn’t sound stiff!

  • I think the problem here is our assumption of what’s fair. Culturally, we’ve decided that ‘fair’ involves hiring the most qualified person. Is it unethical to hire the person we like most? Why? Just because? Is ‘just because’ enough of a reason? Nobody’s entitled to anything. If you want to be successful, you have to play well with others. Everything else can be learned on the job.

  • i think this is what you get from someone who (probably) hasnt worked a day in a corporate or professional role, and comes from academia. Hiring someone is not just about merit. Its about finding the best fit for the company now, and potential for the future. Someone who is able to find and nurture a relationship for the benefit of both parties involved, is rewarded with the win/gains. The keyword is both. Thats all there is to it. The ‘both’ does not include all those who didnt get that role. If that was the case, you will put every single salesperson, who closed a sale, as being unethical for those reason…..since the client/buyer didnt get to base the decision on the merits of every other competing product out there. No they closed the deal because they were able to communicate the benefit to the them by choosing their product.

  • Isn’t this just a part of one of the aspects that you should go through when interviewing. The resume of a candidate itself should tell you if they are qualified for the work, the interview should tell you about whether they are a right fit or not. It’s sometimes easier for a company to hire someone who they already know (via networking) and if that’s the case then shouldn’t we all try to network. If the wrong person is hired then it will show in performance eventually.

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