Why Letting Off Steam Can Damage Your Personal Brand

I’m going to start today’s post with a multiple choice quiz.

You’ve just had an interaction with someone (could be a client, colleague or provider) and been left annoyed and frustrated. What do you do next?

A. Have a bit of a rant about the person, but keep it to yourself eg mutter something under your breath.

B. Have a bit of a rant about the person, but do it out loud eg proclaim they’re an idiot in front of your colleagues.

C. Have a bit of a rant to the person’s boss eg send the boss an email outlining the misdemeanor.

D. Have a bit of a rant about the person on social media eg put an update on LinkedIn stating your frustrations.

I appreciate it will depend on the individual circumstances and the depth of your annoyance.

When it’s basic level ineptitude I’ve experienced, my default is A), though that’s somewhat dictated by the fact I work a lot on my own.

For more vexing situations, I’ll switch to B) by picking up the phone to a trusted associate to share my ire. (Phone being better than email, as those have a nasty habit of ending up in the wrong inbox.)

And for those occasions where the person in question repeatedly does my head in, I have been known to do C). Initially I’ll aim for face-to-face or phone and resort to email only when I have to. (See previous comment about inboxes.)

Only once, that I can recall, have I ever chosen D), when I took to Twitter to complain about some particularly shabby service from Kwik Fit, by making a witty remark about the fact the service was far from kwik.*

What’s interesting is how many people are now choosing D), particularly on LinkedIn.

This was brought to my attention by a regular reader of this blog who shared a screen grab of one recruiter’s update. He was venting his frustration at a client who had, according to him, just done the dirty and contacted a candidate directly. The post began with the word ‘AAARRGGGHH’ and ended with him calling the client an ‘a*$e’.

The thing is, he’s not the only one. Since being made aware of that example, I’ve seen lots more people sharing their frustrations on LinkedIn. Some have been posting the initial rant, others have been ranting through the comments they add.

The question is: is letting off steam online good or bad for your personal brand?

Well, that depends on your aim.

If you want to simply raise your profile ie get more people noticing you, starting a strongly-worded thread that lots of people will have a view on could make a lot of headway. You’ll no doubt receive lots of feedback (the above example had 740 likes and 172 comments at the time) and even expand your network as like-minded people look to connect.

However, the next question is: what impression is this new audience forming of your personal brand and is it aligned with what you want it to be?

For my part, while reading the example I went through a thought process that went something like this:

“Poor bloke. That’s a bit pants, having your hard work wasted by the under-handedness of someone else. That said, it happens to the best of us – he’s not the only one who’s been frustrated by someone’s actions, although most of us keep it offline. Which makes you wonder…if he’s willing to voice his opinions so publicly about this, what else might he mouth off about? And who to? How confidential would he be? Would he throw a tantrum in front of his colleagues? Or his clients?…How professional is he?”

Although I started out on his side, it’s that last thought that stayed with me: How professional is he?

From my perspective as a personal brander, my three tips would be:

1. The best personal brands are the ones that leave people feeling positive.
2. When you put anything online, you have no way of knowing who’s forming their opinion of you.
3. If in doubt, keep your comments balanced, constructive and complimentary (plus humor works too).

It might make for a duller activity feed, but nobody will be questioning your professionalism.

What do you think? Is life too dull if we all play it safe? Or is your reputation worth thinking twice about what you post? There are plenty of sides to any story so feel free to share yours. Thanks!

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