Drawing Lines on Doing Favors

It can be hard to make an ethical call on using your connections.

Michael Wade

At what point is it ethically proper to use connections and do favors?

This is an easier call when you are the favor seeker. If you are unemployed and have family and friends who can put in a good word for you, why not ask them to do so? Their recommendations may open a door, but in most cases it won’t guarantee a job. You’ll have to land that on your own.

The question gets harder when you are the person who’s been asked for the favor, particularly if you are inside an organization. It can be difficult to make a strong recommendation without having it interpreted as a form of coercion. On the other hand, if your recommendation is too weak, it may seem that you are damning the candidate with faint praise.

Although connections place many a job candidate, there are times when they run into a wall. Even with careful crafting of words and lenient nepotism policies, some individuals are reluctant to make any recommendations of friends or relatives. They can more comfortably tout the virtues of a stranger than risk the appearance of improper influence. Their intentions are commendable, but isn’t their behavior unduly cautious?

Just as a failure to use connections in a job search could well be described as a form of unilateral disarmament, why should having connections operate against a candidate?

There is a need for a balance between refusing to acknowledge any relationships and permitting such relationships to be the dominant consideration. Connections can be abused but they should not be inherently improper.

Michael Wade writes Execupundit.com, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.


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