The Wall Street Journal published an article on the challenges involved in unfriending those on our professional network.
The bottom line in its advice is: Think carefully before friending.
No surprise, this issue has become important enough to make it to The Wall Street Journal. Digital makes it all too easy to communicate with more and more of those associated with our careers.
Simultaneously, the digital platforms create the expectation that we will be in frequent touch, as well as like, share, comment, wish happy birthday, and congratulate on a work anniversary.
Yet, much of that simply isn't paying off in referrals for our businesses, upward mobility on current jobs, confidential tips about other job opportunities, and thoughtful private feedback on how we can improve our game.
In itself, this problem is not new. Way back in the 1980s, when business was relatively stable, Judith Viorst published "Necessary Losses."
At the time it was shocker. My generation had been socialized to protect and nurture professional relationships. Much of that was through snail mail. A former boss received a promotion. We shopped for a greeting card or penned a personal note on quality stationary.
Viorst gave us permission to cut those ties. If we were smart, we did that smoothly since most industries were monoliths. It could be career suicide to burn bridges.
In 2011, Henry Cloud published "Necessary Endings." Essentially it ramped up the message that to scale our careers we have to leave people behind. Since the book ranks on Amazon at 5,495, obviously lots of professionals are still needing guidance on how to unfriend.
Unfriending is most difficult when we remain in a field. Although the world of work is fragmented, others' perception of us can still have a long reach. For that reason, I recommend to those I coach to get over the frustration of all that communication. Simply respond less. Don't press the "remove" button.
The options are different in a career transition. Actually, unfriending all the familiar contacts might be a helpful rite of passage.
In the Harvard Business Review, Paul Lawrence explains that mankind is not only Economic Man and Economic Woman.
The careerist is also a social animal. The unwillingness to let go of those ties can prevent or slow down the shift to where there is more professional opportunity.
In the downsizing legal niche, a 60-something lawyer I coach has finally found the emotional strength to experiment with other ways to make a good living. The major stumbling block had been her decades of relationships with those in the Connecticut legal community. They were, yes, family.
Now, she accepts, she has to "start from scratch."
About 11 months ago, I reconfigured the professional services I provide to this: primarily coaching those over-50. Here are the details Download IntroducingYoutoJaneGenovaCoachingforOver50.
That represented a shift out of the growing glutted niches associated with communications per se. For years, the lion's share of my income came from that. Only about 30% was generated from coaching.
The one blind spot during the transition was that, yes, I had to, as Viorst and Cloud hammer, purge the network. Only in the past 5 weeks have I been a busy bee unfriending.
Unless those connections go, there is no room in my soul and schedule to develop and enhance relationships in coaching.
In fact, what I have discovered is that the most useful tactic for acquiring fresh knowledge and insight about the needs of those I coach is to talk person-to-person with players in that niche. In addition, of course, that is the source of referrals.
Because social is embedded in others' sense of self, The Wall Street Journal is absolutely right: Think long and hard before transmitting a friending invitation to those in your line of work. It may turn out to be what the legal community classifies as a "public nuisance." Also, understand the risk involved in cutting those digital ties. A scorned colleague could be quite the vindictive one.
Contact Jane Genova firstname.lastname@example.org.