This is the another in the “Limited Networker Field Guide” series.

Name: Gray-Crested Moral Ambigue

Environment: Frighteningly common in all walks of life.

Behavior: The Moral Ambigue shows up at networking events, businesses, and social events. His camouflaged markings make him appear much like any other attendee. The main distinction happens when he starts to regale you with stories of his success. At that point, his plumage — the gray of muddied morality — suddenly becomes apparent. He often tells of his greatest achievements being earning a lot of money. No problem there. The dark side of this individual comes in when he admits that he is actually taking advantage of other people to accomplish his goals. In fact, he doesn’t seem to be able to distinguish between serving those who are in true need and manufacturing a false need so that he can profit from their misfortunes — to him, they are the same thing.

Broken Rules of Good Networking: First impressions may count, but a bad reputation lasts forever. Similar to the Strong-Arm Salesman, the Ambigue wants to succeed in the “sale” (whatever that might mean to him. The difference here is what he’s selling may or may not actually solve the problem — and he doesn’t care. Sooner or later, the fact that he doesn’t care will get out and at that point, things are going to start getting hard for him.

Counter-Measures: When you discover the person with whom you’ve been chatting is indeed an Ambigue, it’s time to end the conversation and move along. If we are known by those with whom we associate, we do not want their muddy grayness to stick to us. You really have nothing to gain from them and more than likely, they are simply sizing you up to see how they can best use you to their own benefit.

How We Can Help: Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to help these poor misguided souls. Until they perceive that there is a problem, they will have no reason to change.

As skilled networkers we should always find ways to help other people whenever possible. In this case, though, there really isn’t anything to do and any attempts on our part are only likely to further enable the Ambigue’s behaviors.

Sometimes all we can do is save ourselves.

Photo by Kevin Law