Sunday, July 15, 2012

Use LinkedIn without alerting your boss and colleagues

The question I get asked most often by individuals who want to update their LinkedIn profiles is, “How do I do it without letting my suspicious boss, who doesn't know anything about social media, think that I’m looking to leave the company?”

My response to this question is to always err on the side of caution. If you think that updating your profile is going to get you in trouble, then don’t do it. But does this mean there is no way to update your profile?

Not at all.

See, the thing that underpins a gifted social media practitioner’s strategy is a good understanding human psychology and relationships. If we can understand our boss as a human being with feelings and ideas, rather than as a Mr. Burns, we will have a better idea of how to establish our social media presence in a way that not only makes us look good, but makes our company look good as well.

Bosses’ and colleagues’ concerns

Bosses often get worried when their staffers update their profiles, because it could be a sign that they are looking to jump ship. Bosses are worried that they might have to quickly hire new people who don’t know their job as well as individuals that have worked in the office for some time. Even with the horrible economy and the oceans of unemployed, finding a new worker who knows exactly how to do the job or training a newcomer can be a huge time suck.

The other way that your boss might be wary of you updating your LinkedIn profile is if he or she thinks that it makes you look more qualified than others – including your boss! Organizations sometimes have politics, spying, undermining and sensitive egos lying just under the surface, especially in organizations where loyalties are unclear and/or turnover is high. 

If we update our profiles in such an environment, we can be perceived by our bosses and colleagues as potentially rocking the boat.

Third, your boss or colleague might be worried about your LinkedIn profile because he or she doesn’t know what LinkedIn really is about. Some people see LinkedIn as a glorified Facebook, fit for revealing personal or company information that compromises the organization’s image. Your boss might even think that LinkedIn is a tool that facilitates building an organization that competes directly with the boss’ organization!

All of these ideas should have nothing to do with why you want to update your LinkedIn profile, but they do need to be addressed.

What are your options?

Remember, your boss may not know your intentions or understand what LinkedIn is about. It is your responsibility, not your boss’, to clarify the situation. Do not do any of the following if there is any chance it could hurt your position at work.

Here is where human psychology comes in: things that are written down can be more easily misunderstood than things that are spoken. The written word also carries more weight than what is spoken. So before you update your profile, if you think your boss can be reasonable about it, go have a nice talk with him or her.

I would suggest you choose a fairly quiet, calm time to bring up the topic of your LinkedIn profile. If your boss is busy or upset already, then you talking about your profile is not going to win you any favors. Don’t take it personally, it’s just not the most important thing on his or her agenda.

Second, you might mention that you have heard that maintaining an accurate record of your duties on LinkedIn is now considered a basic part of a person’s career. You can also say that by filling out your profile you mean to give your current employer a message that you are taking clear responsibility for your work and the job requirements.

What about co-workers or bosses concerned about how they will look if your profile is well-developed? You might win friends if you tell your colleagues and superiors that you would like an off-the-record review of your skills so that you can tell the world what it is that you do in a way that is more well rounded than if you had described your position by yourself. Make sure if you do this that you are talking to people who are not clear enemies, but rather people you think can be trusted.

If you are really concerned about filling out your profile and you have some nasty enemies in the office watching, there is another way to do it, but there is a certain amount of risk involved. You might tell your “frienimies” that you would like to give them recommendations on their LinkedIn profiles. Almost everyone has some redeeming characteristics that you can mention. Once you have done this, you might make a few friends and find that building up your profile is easier. If it doesn’t break the ice or you can’t even convince them of the wisdom of being publically praised on their LinkedIn profiles, you can still back out of updating your profile

Just so it is very clear, I do NOT advise that you recommend people you don’t like, and especially if you suspect them of illegal or unethical behavior.

If you give someone a recommendation, you are publically endorsing that individual. If they do something wrong later and get in trouble for it, your recommendation can be held up as proof that your “friend” was a good person.  This can have all sorts of legal consequences, so tread carefully. I personally never give anyone a recommendation unless I have a good feel for the person’s character built up over a longer period of time. 

Recommendations say as much about me as they do others, so I don’t take them lightly.

Luckily, the most common reason for professionals to spurn LinkedIn is that they don’t understand the site very well. Yes, “luckily”! This is the most easy reason to address.

If you are concerned that your colleagues and superiors are going to be suspicious of your profile update for this reason, then I would suggest that if your workplace has an open culture that you share an article or two about how using LinkedIn is considered a very standard practice. For example, LinkedIn can be used to exchange information with people around the world, not just job hunt. When people fill out their profiles then they make it easier to share and receive information, because they are putting out a very important part of their lives that all can see and judge. 

By far the best way of getting a workplace on board with LinkedIn is to have trainers come in and explain what the site is all about. Lori Ruff (@loriruff), at left, and Laurie Boettcher (@LaurieBoettcherare two well-liked individuals I know of who train professionals on how to use LinkedIn, but there are many others as well. See if anyone you trust in HR is open to the idea of having such people come in to train the staff and see where it goes from there. If the idea takes off, it can have a profound affect throughout the company.

LinkedIn is a wonderful site that you can use in many different ways to enrich your career. Just use it responsibly, ethically and legally, and always share what you learn with others. 

(This article is meant only as advice and is not binding upon anyone.)

No comments:

Post a Comment