Play Nice With the Other Kids Online

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the grasp of the netiquette do’s and don’ts of communicating online is critical to your success. One misstep can be all it takes to sink your ship. Whether you are posting in LinkedIn groups, talking to friends on Facebook, participating in blogs or tweeting on Twitter, you need to understand that netiquette covers both common courtesy and the informal “rules of the road” of cyberspace. In this world, you must be even more conscious of how and what you are saying; otherwise you run the risk of tarnishing your brand, tearing down your credibility or offending people who not only won’t take it kindly, but will vigorously pass on their displeasure to everyone they know.

I watched an example of a meltdown of ego’s in a LinkedIn group discussion today. A colleague alerted me to the situation and frankly, I couldn’t believe my eyes. This is exactly the kind of thing that in an instant can destroy your credibility as a professional and put your company’s brand at risk. It started innocently enough with each person putting their opinion forth…and then it got nasty. Here are a few of the excerpts:

Guys, I don’t want to rain on your parade but…. this happens to be my area of expertise for the last 10 years. Dolly, it has nothing to do with the intended audience or whether it is formal or informal learning. Roger, when I refer to hard baked I am referring to static content which is a blob and not easily maintained or all that intelligent. Roger, I will need some time to educate you. I am not sure there is enough space in this forum to do so.

Rule # 1 – Don’t insult other people by making it personal. Everyone has their opinion. Be careful not to confuse your sales agenda with contributing ideas to the discussion. This isn’t about winning or insisting that people believe in your point of view.

After those thoughtless comments, as in everyone else is wrong but her, the game is now on. It was painful to watch, and I’m only giving you the highlights. Believe me, it was much, much worse!

Sorry Brenda, It looks like you haven’t been paying attention for the last ten years. Maybe you should find a new career. Your ideas are strictly 1997, and you clearly haven’t been looking closely at the online collaboration and learning repository technologies that have evolved in online tools such as ours, or in Rapid intake’s new online version, or in Atlantic Link etc.

As I stated Roger, there is not enough room in this forum for me to educate you. I know your system; I know Atlantic Link and the many other online authoring tools. I don’t think you are a smart as you give yourself credit for. Do your homework. LCMS’s have matured over the last 10 years. You don’t have a clue what you are talking about. Duh, what do you think tools like Lectora and yours for that matter use to animate objects in a browser? Scripting Languages or proprietary authoring tools like Flash. I know more about web services than you could even imagine.

And it kept going…

Wow, Brenda, I really hadn’t intended to turn this forum into a personal vendetta, your arrogance is as deep as your ignorance. You are the classic case of the salesperson becoming indoctrinated by their own BS.

And going…

Dude, can I have some of whatever it is you are smoking. It is not productive to go point on point because clearly you know I am right. I am so far from just a salesperson. You have no idea who I am otherwise you would not be so arrogant. Right, Boeing, World Wide, Enterprise Wide is my customer. They are building and managing many thousands of courses and deploying that content to 160,000 world wide employees. How many Boeing employees are you serving, LOL. Lets not even go there.

And going…

Your too funny with the founding father thing. I challenge you to find out who I am. Roger, you are smoking your own crack. No one is locked into our own authoring capability. There you go again. Do your home work, old fellow.

OMG – someone please tell this woman to shut up is all I kept thinking. She is rude, arrogant and evidently has no social graces whatsoever. This is a classic case of a sales person who ventured far, far off the reservation. She was so caught up in winning that she evidently lost her mind. Trust me, I scaled it back significantly. I can’t imagine what would possess anyone to behave that way, but clearly she was too caught up in making sure that everyone else knew she was the smartest person on the planet. She isn’t. Giving no thought to the fact that she risked damaging the reputation of the company that she represented, she kept mouthing off. Actually, she did do harm to her employer and more. For anyone reading, I have to believe that her image was forever tarnished in their minds, as it was in mine. I know whenever I see her name I will say to others – buy from someone else. That does significant damage to her company.

What happened today is a company’s worst nightmare. Some idiot employee mouthing off doing damage to the company brand. Instead of running away or saying that this is why social media should be avoided, it is an opportunity for a company to ensure that they have some guidelines for their employees to follow. I stress guidelines that come tethered with accountability. Don’t hamstring people with oversight, rigid control and micro-management, but do insist that certain types of behavior will not be tolerated.

Respect and appreciation for the diverse viewpoints of others is as critical in the online world, as it offline. I wonder, would she have really said those ignorant, stupid things if she was talking to him face to face? Would he have said those things to her if they were standing toe to toe at a networking function? My guess is not. And that’s the moral of the story. Loose lips definitely sink ships. Be careful what you say online!


  1. says

    What is even worse is that customers were drug into this battle of egos. If I was Boeing, I wouldn’t be happy being mentioned here. It may have even violated a supplier contract with them. It’s all the more reason to have a social media strategy – at least for observation. Luckily, this conversation was well contained witin the bounds of a LinkedIn group and not readily available via Google, Yahoo or Bing.

  2. says

    As I asked a few of my colleagues to read the post and pass it on, this question was posed: I’m curious why you just cited her being at fault. He seemed just as guilty, and is certainly guilty for staying involved in the “discussion….”

    It’s a very good question. There is no doubt that they both acted like children and both were at fault. In a final comment, Roger admitted that he let his ego get out of control. But I zeroed in on Brenda, because she got the whole thing started. What struck me about the entire conversation was her complete and utter rudeness. Believe me, you didn’t see it all. Nasty. Calling him old man, suggesting he was smoking crack, arrogant about who she was – she made it far more personal. AND…she brought her client in to it, which may have even violated a vendor agreement. It was just plain bad. They were both at fault to be sure and she totally brought it on. From my perspective anyway.

  3. says

    Bringing her client into her argument was obviously in some way a sad attempt to justify the behavior. She obviously want all the sand in the sandbox! My question is:

    “Is anyone out there really listening these days?”

  4. says

    If you meant, aren’t people listening to the advice of others about how to behave as a professional in the online world (though I wonder why we have to draw people a map), so that major mistakes aren’t made on the social web…one definitely wonders!

  5. says

    Most people are so egocentric, self-centered and selfish, they do not realize that not only do they hurt others with their words and their actions but they, more importantly, hurt themselves and their reputation.
    Since I always look at the bright side of things, I see this as a blessing! There are so many ignorant, rude and lazy people in the world that it leaves more room for those of us who work at bettering outselves every day and excel! The cream always floats to the top.

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