If you have been on LinkedIn recently, you might have seen this response to a LinkedIn connection request circulating. It’s an email exchange where a young 25-year old asks to connect with a senior level executive in charge of a local job board on LinkedIn. The request was denied with a tirade about how the young woman behaved badly. Perhaps the younger woman was in the wrong, but the response the executive gave was exceptionally mean-spirited.
After seeing how this one executive responded to a LinkedIn connection request, I thought this might be a good time to remind everyone about LinkedIn etiquette.
But before we get into that, let’s talk about email. Email is, among other things, a revolutionary way to keep in touch with people you rarely see. You can convey a lot of information, share ideas, keep people on task, send cat pictures, and more. But there’s one thing you absolutely, positively, 100% need to remember:
Email is forever.
It’s so easy to send an email in the heat of the moment (which is clearly what the executive did in this instance), but once you hit send, there’s a permanent record of it. It gets archived, indexed, backed up, and, well, you can’t kill it any more than you can kill kudzu. And it’s even worse if the email gets forwarded by the recipient, and you gotta know that’s what will happen if what you wrote was juicy in any way. The job-bank executive could have had an in-person conversation or a phone call, and she wouldn’t have gotten nearly the bad publicity she got over this email, simply because in-person, and (for the most part) telephone conversations aren’t recorded, so the offended party may have told a few friends and family members, but that would have been with the end of it.
Instead, she took it to the internet, and the web had a field day. Now the woman who sent the nasty email has become famous for it—like Justin Bieber has become famous for his trouble with the law rather than for his justifiable status as a performer and teen heartthrob. She now has to cover her tracks, apologize publicly, extend an olive branch to the offended party, and climb out of the deep reputational hole she dug for herself.
Yes, email is forever. That is actually one of its strengths, but those who aren’t careful can find themselves dealing with the ugly side of that strength. Here’s a very old rule you can live by: When you’re angry or upset, by all means write that harsh, mean email. But don’t send it. Writing it will make you feel so good—and not sending it will make you feel even better.