The Blue Dog Scientific Blog: Back-to-Basics Guide on the LinkedIn User Agreement.

Back-to-Basics Guide on the LinkedIn User Agreement.


LinkedIn User Agreement Back-to-Basics
Recently, I encountered a LinkedIn group which seems to have completely lost sight of what appropriate modes of behavior online are. All too often we see folks doing and saying things online, putting them in writing in the public domain, which would be considered far outside their cultural norms in real life. Facebook is the worse place for this and there one can find many terrible examples of it getting out of hand (the phenomena of "trolling" is one example, but there are more subtle ones, like using "Likes" to gang up and bully someone). In social media for business, this aberrant behavior is termed "unprofessionalism".

LinkedIn is nowhere near as bad as Facebook, but there is still a lot of it about. Indeed, we often have to raise the awareness of people to the fact that the User Agreement they signed up to is contractually binding and the Do's and Dont's are not guidelines but the rules that you have agreed to.

I thought that we could therefore use a back-to-basics guide as short cut reminders of these rules, which when any of us see someone we feel is acting outside them, we can highlight.

To my mind, the most important of these is to act in a professional manner at all  times. The problem with this is the definition of professionalism is a very gray area. Even "courteous" is such a strongly cultural concept. We in the west have very different understandings of what courtesy means than in China or Japan. The concept of "losing face" simply does not come into our modes of behavior. Having lived in the US, I can tell you there are subtle but profound culture difference in what is considered courtesy as compared to the UK. Even in the UK, it is very regional. Here in Yorkshire we are renowned for being blunt, straight talkers and direct to the point. Our Southern countrymen can find this rude or discourteous. It is isn't. We simply feel that it would be discourteous to be dishonest about things or to skirt issues.

While discourtesy can be in the eye of the beholder, when someone alerts you online that they feel you are being discourteous, then to be insensitive to this or to carry on regardless, is unprofessional. As is any deliberate attempt to goad, be rude, irritate, anger or upset someone. This does not mean that heated or robust technical discussions can not take place or that strongly held points of view cannot be expressed. I also believe that inherent in any definition of professionalism should be being open and accepting of critical feedback and being a reflective practioner: both receiving and giving constructive criticism is part and parcel of being professional and business like. But that is far cry from being abusive. When a group of people are being collectively discourteous to a single individual that is far worse. It is cyber-bullying.

Have you got the book by my LinkedIn Connection and fellow member of the LinkedInExperts Community on Google+, Brynne Tillman?

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