Forget the objective, learn how to network

Works well with others.

According to whom?

The news today is reporting that military vets are not doing well in the marketplace because they tend to walk directly to their desks and begin working without first making a swing around the office to chat with their coworkers. They don’t do well because they see clear distinctions in roles and responsibilities based on job titles. They see rank and have expectations of behavior based on a defined hierarchy. They expect organizations to operate according to clear designations. They don’t understand how to “network.”

I relate a lot to this “problem.”

At the core of my being, I believe that having clear roles is the most efficient, and honest, way to operate an organization. But I also know with certainty that I operate in a culture that abhors honest distinctions in power, class, and (paradoxically) culture.

For instance, as a subordinate, I was corrected for addressing power brokers as “Mr. Lastname.” Conversely, I had fellow subordinates tell me that, “She (our executive) is just like everyone else,” when we were discussing the management style of our leadership team. When I pointed out that the boss had her own parking space, her own office, and the ability to fire us, my coworkers looked at me as if I’d suddenly started speaking Klingon.

When searching for answers to why my ideas for improvement had been ignored, I was told that that my problem was not what I had said, but how I had said it. I was told that I was technically proficient, but my products don’t really matter if people felt the least bit of resistance to what I was proposing. I was told that people needed to be motivated by something other than logic, return on investment, and goal driven value.

Now I get it, I live in Southern California. That is just the reality I live in. So a while back I changed my behavior, started spending more time talking about the weather, offspring, and commuting routes. Now my ideas are embraced with gusto even though they are less developed because of all the time I spend on “networking.”

I am now being “effective,” but let’s be honest.

I am working well with other according to rules that have little to do with the organization’s stated objectives. I’m an analyst not a networker, so I’m not being me. The networking culture is a culture of pretention. We pretend to be about objectives when in fact we are about the old high school popularity game.

It is a culture of conformity. It does not respect the culture of the objective thinkers. It does not respect the culture of the veteran who quantifies effort towards the stated objective as paramount. It pretends that leaders are not required to lead and that subordinates are never devalued.

Worst of all, it pretends to be “embracing” by forcing us to all to agree that we all agree even when we don’t.

Harry Potter’s Professor Delores Umbridge was a model of polite, happy, leadership. She only required one thing: Fall in line.