As a human resources manager, Prajakta understands the importance of connections. Whether it’s getting referral resumes or emails from acquaintances inquiring about job openings, networking can go a long way.
Prajakta has a diverse professional network that she has built based on her experience. She has close colleagues and friends employed across industries. At the same time, she makes a point to connect with people on platforms like LinkedIn. These are acquaintances but she knows she can reach out to them when needed.
For a productive, mutually-beneficial professional network, you need to have a mix of strong ties—family, friends and coworkers—and weak ties—strangers, acquaintances or people you’ve only met in passing.
Let’s discuss the importance of having both strong and weak ties in the workplace.
What Are Strong Ties And Weak Ties?
Strong ties are relationships with your friends or family, team members or even classmates if you’re a student. It’s made up of close links to people you trust, spend time with and rely on. Everyone has some strong ties and this is our support group.
The meaning of weak ties is the relationship you have with acquaintances or colleagues you don’t work closely with. It may even be people in your network with whom you don’t communicate on a regular basis.
Today, professionals advocate the importance of building a robust network with a mix of strong and weak ties. This is because you may need someone who’s not in your immediate circle to help you out with a project, during a crisis situation or simply for better opportunities.
Decoding The Strength Of Weak Ties In The Workplace
Mark Granovetter, professor of sociology at Stanford University, discussed the strength of weak ties in a 1973 paper. His research was rooted in job referrals and how people who had weak ties were more successful in getting better, more high-paying jobs. With Granovetter’s distinction between strong and weak ties, experts understood the strength of weak ties in a well-rounded network.
Consider this example.
Sapna works as a freelancer with an organization. She doesn’t communicate with more than two people from the department she is attached to. However, she still reaches out to others in the organization when she is on a new project. Sapna even requests them to share relevant information to help her do her job better.
Even though she doesn’t need to, Sapna recognizes the strength of weak ties in the workplace. She doesn’t communicate with other members regularly. But she maintains a good enough relationship that they help one another out when needed.
If you don’t branch out, you may not have the same opportunities as someone who does. For instance, most jobs are filled thanks to referrals. These don’t have to be your closest or most-trusted confidantes. Referrals can be acquaintances you meet online or at a networking event. Many people frequent networking events to connect with people in their industry.
Say there’s an opening and there are two candidates—one who made an effort to connect with the hiring manager prior to applying and one who didn’t. Who do you think is more likely to get called in for an interview?
The power of weak ties lies in the fact that you make an effort to step out of your comfort zone. It would be ideal if we all got the best jobs without having to contact anyone. But until you express an interest, reach out to the right people and take initiative, you may not get what you want.
Ways To Build Weak Ties In The Workplace
As important as strong ties are for our general well-being, we should pay equal attention to weak ties at work. Now that we’ve understood the meaning of weak ties, let’s discuss how you can leverage the strength of weak ties with everyday actions.
Send out thank you notes after a job interview or a meeting is a way to build relationships
Reach out to external stakeholders like sales leads, clients or customers to maintain good rapport with them
Research different industries and build diverse skills so you have something to talk about at office events
Make sure to learn about other departments in your organization in case you need to change teams one day
Maintain healthy relationships with everyone at work to promote a cohesive work environment
What you need to do is understand who’s potentially a weak tie. This requires some level of skill to decode people.
Harappa’s Decoding Others course will teach you how to gain insights about others based on observation, inference and verification. Understanding sensibilities will help you collaborate and build better working relationships. Learn about frameworks like the Decoding Triad and Relationship Strategies to build a strong network in the workplace.
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