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September 2, 2015 / Stephanie Anderson

How not to offend your network: LinkedIn commenting etiquette

shutterstock_119635396Being an active member of LinkedIn means posting, commenting and engaging with your network and experts in your industry. Simply read and share posts, make comments and contribute to the conversation. You don’t even necessarily have to agree with a post, counterpoints and lively discussion are fantastic ways to engage with a professional community.

But at what point does healthy dialogue turn unprofessional or even downright nasty?

I’ve seen my fair share of offensive comments while reading through LinkedIn posts. This is somewhat surprising given the lack of anonymity on LinkedIn. Whatever you post will be plastered for your entire network to see, oftentimes with your head shot right next to it.

Here are a few examples we were surprised to find on LinkedIn lately:

1. As of today the article I had a baby and cancer when I worked Amazon, here’s my story has had more than 400,000 views. Of the 1,300 comments it generated, Mr. Aleem’s may be one of the least productive. Arguably sexist, his comment is likely to have offended a good portion of the readers, and the responses from Apurva and Johann, though maybe justified, are not necessarily professional either. There was a lot of great dialogue on this article, Mr. Aleem’s input not included.

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2. In the article The key to success is friendship the author he shares how integral friendship has been to his career. Too bad Mr. Fortinberry could only respond with a most unfriendly reply. I can’t imagine a scenario where it’s acceptable to call someone an idot on a professional networking site. Disagree, absolutely. Insult, never.

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3. Even our own posts from the LinkUp blog  receive unsavory comments from time to time. My colleague Molly Moseley recently wrote the post Does unlimited parental leave actually mean less time off?  It’s clear Mr. Kidney disagrees with my colleague’s point of view which is fine, but he takes it to such a negative place in recommending she be ignored. I fail to see how interviewing her has anything to do with a healthy discussion on maternity leave in our society.

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To reiterate, we know that not everyone agrees. In fact, we love a good insightful discussion. Differing opinions can create really good conversation and even inspire innovation. But there is a difference between constructive disagreement and being just plain rude.

Whether you are a fresh college graduate or seasoned professional, make sure you put your best foot forward in your posts by heeding these basic rules of engagement for commenting on LinkedIn:

Rule 1: Speak up and don’t be shy. It’s great to have an open dialogue and interesting to hear different points of view, but keep comments respectful and insightful. Help to move a conversation forward, not shut it down.

Rule 2: Avoid personal attacks on the author and/or other commenters. Keep your focus on the topic being discussed, not the person who is discussing them.

Rule 3: Your mom was right: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Remember, your network sees what you post in their feeds, and it’s a small world. Unruly commenting could negatively impact your future job search or advancement at your current company.

Rule 4: Take the high road. If someone is posting negative and/or inappropriate comments, don’t lower yourself to their level. Name calling is never professional.

Rule 5: Take extra care with topics in politics, gender discrimination and cultural discrimination. You don’t necessarily need to avoid these topics altogether, but maintaining professionalism when addressing them can be a bit trickier.

Rule 6: Don’t spam or comment on a completely unrelated topic. This is not the place to sell something or announce that you’re seeking new employment. You add no value to the conversation and come off as selfish. The best way to sell yourself is by demonstrating your knowledge.

So give it to me straight! What do you think about commenting on LinkedIn? Where do YOU draw the line between being professional and being a pest?