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February 12, 2007


Ann Bares

I tend to agree with you - and with Alan Bond - that success does ultimately come down to dedication and hard work. To write it all off as luck positions us as victims, rather than active owners of our careers.

Charles H. Green

I think there's something big missing here.

As I read your posting, Peggy, the first mention of luck is in "whether people attribute success in life to luck and connections, or to hard work." I highlight "luck and connections," because they're not the same thing. But the rest of your post talks only about luck, as if it subsumed connections within it.

I clicked through to Maura O'Neill's article itself, and found the same thing--she quotes the study as combining the two concepts, then goes on to cite them as simply "luck." So you were correctly reporting her view.

I'm not going to go back two sources at this point and read the original study. But let me just point out that if the distinction is made, there is a very ready at hand explanation.

My hypothesis is that belief in meritocracy is something of a delusion. And belief in meritocracy is precisely what a lot of middle-management people have. No wonder, they've been told it for long enough.

The truth is not only that hard work matters, but so do relationships. It absolutely makes a difference who you know; just pick up any busines book, magazine, study and it'll testify to the power of networks and relationships. It's also true that those networks get established in ways that may seem unfair: the old boys network, white vs. black networks, alumni associations, golf games.

We can rail about it being unfair, or we can accept it for what it is and get along with life--including trying to change it.

The worst option is to live in a mindset that equates relationships with luck. There's nothing "lucky" about it.

I suspect that people who attribute success to "luck" over hard work are simply embittered because they think hard work is supposed to pay off, and it hasn't. They've been told it's a meritocracy, and it isn't, at least not in a narrow sense. This delusion is not unique to women, by the way.

The world is getting more connected, not less. The ability to network is becoming increasingly valuable, not less so. And relationships and networking are skills that women (unfairly?) are often judged to be better at. There ought to be a competitive adantage here for women. But only if they give up the delusion that relationships, aka who you know, don't matter.

They certainly do matter. Get over it, and get into it. Start by refusing to equate relationships with "luck."
Charles - Thanks for your very thoughtful posting. You make an excellent point that when we conduct or report on research it's important to clarify the exact definition of our variables. In this case, assuming that luck" is the same as connections is a bit risky. I think you and I are pretty close to agreement when it comes to accepting "politics" or "connections" as a matter of fact in the workplace. I posted on it here:
Thanks for reading and for sharing your insights!


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