Should ‘Rude’ Be Part Of Your Personal Brand?

There’s an exercise I do as part of my workshops where I get delegates to guess the identity of a selection of celebrity chefs, based on only a handful of words. So let’s try it out here:

Which chef’s personal brand is sweary, aggressive
and rude?

Unless you’ve been living off-grid and avoiding all media, you’ll instantly recognise Gordon Ramsay from that simple description.

Within the sphere of TV chefs, he’s marked himself out as different for what would, on the face of it, be negative attributes. (One of his programmes was even called The F Word.) And he’s made a lot of money as a result.

But although it’s possible for a rude and hostile personal brand to work in the world of show business, can the same be said for the world of regular business?

In the case of someone like Steve Jobs, Donald Trump or Alan Sugar, you could argue it does – although I’d argue they are in fact celebrities, in that your average Joe Schmo will know who they are. Plus, when you’ve proven your prowess and got a balance sheet running into millions and billions behind you, as they have, you can afford to ruffle more than a few feathers. (It shouldn’t be the case, but you know it’s true.)

I’m not sure the same could be said for your average person working in corporate life – wherever they are in the hierarchy.

I remember a senior executive I used to work with whose disdain for anyone who wasn’t part of his inner circle was palpable. A case in point would be the time I asked him to sign off an internal communication, detailing a change in practice that was going to have a huge impact on the staff.

“I haven’t got time to look at it,” he said. “It’ll literally take you a minute to read,” I replied, “and the staff really needs to know what’s happening.” To which he replied, “I don’t give a s**t about the staff.”

He wasn’t telling me anything that wasn’t already apparent, but even though I didn’t think he could sink lower in my estimation, he proved me wrong. The saving grace in that scenario was I was the only one to hear his derisory comment. But online media has removed those barriers and plenty of people are bringing their hostility to a wider audience.

Having a rant online

Take a look at your LinkedIn homepage and choose any post that’s got a big number of comments. Now scroll through those comments and count how long it takes until you get to one where the person’s reply could be considered less than courteous. Or even outright rude.

If you don’t know that person and this is your very first encounter with their personal brand, how’s that left you feeling?

Did you think, “Wow, I wish I worked with them – they sound like someone I’d want on my team!” or did you think, “By going so far as to call someone an ass/twonk/some-other-sweary-rudeness, you’ve given me the impression that’s what you are.”

To create a positive impression of your personal brand, it’s worth considering the tenet, “If you can’t think of anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” to which I’d add:

“and if you do feel the need to voice your disagreement, do it in a way that retains your credibility.”

Which is hopefully what I’ve done with this post (though being a pragmatist, I’ve a feeling I could be on the receiving end of a few choice comments where my advice has been steadfastly ignored.)

What do you think? Should freedom of speech mean you say exactly what’s on your mind? Or should courtesy and an eye on your personal brand mean you temper the language of your response? You can give your view with a quick comment in the box below.

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