Column: Unwanted expectations can destroy a networking relationship
Photo by Irum Shahid
Imagine receiving a beautifully wrapped gift. Inside is something wonderful. Taped to the side of the package, though, is an invoice marked "past due".
This is the way some people approach networking.
We've talked in the past about gift-giving. It's a wonderful way to show the people in your network that you know and care about them — so long as the gift we give is selected with the specific recipient in mind. There is another kind of "gift". This one is more a reward specifically designed to acknowledge someone sending business our way. I think this is a great idea...
...if it's my idea.
Rewarding referrals can be an excellent gesture. The only time I have a problem with the concept is when the person making the referral tells me that they expect something in return. Usually this is in the form of a percentage of any contract or possibly a flat rate. For some reason, this feels like a violation of the networking spirit to me. It's not a gift any longer. It's a payment.
It's almost like having a friend show up to help you move. Then before he lifts the first box, he makes a point of telling you that he expects you to help him out the following weekend with his landscaping project. You would have been more than happy to help out if he had asked, but as soon as there was an expectation, the whole process doesn't feel so "friendly" anymore.
Sadly, in these situations, I have to consider whether I want to continue with a networking relationship. If I do end up paying a commission on a referral, I don't feel as obliged to reciprocate with referrals of my own. If I don't pay the commission, then I feel like a cheat. Either way, extending and deepening the relationship probably isn't going to happen easily after that point.
Yes, I know as a good networker I should be willing to pass along referrals anyway, just because it's the Right Thing to Do. Oh, well. I guess I'm not ready to be nominated for sainthood.
Maybe next year.