The social web is all abuzz with a story today about a LinkedIn interaction that went horribly wrong. A job-seeker asked to connect on LinkedIn with the operator of a Cleveland job board. The response was not only negative but downright nasty. It went viral.
Like most digital horror stories that go viral, this one touched a nerve with the public. We’ve all been there. We’ve all gotten those requests.
You’re probably on LinkedIn, and at some point you’ve probably received a connection request from someone who…well…you just don’t want in your network. Maybe you don’t know the person from Adam. Maybe you met them once and don’t feel ready to connect with them online. Maybe you know them and you don’t want to have anything to do with them. For whatever reason, you really really wish they hadn’t asked to connect with you.
So there you are, staring at your computer screen, asking yourself: What do I do?
Managing your LinkedIn network doesn’t have to be a gut-wrenching experience. Here’s my advice:
You don’t have to accept. It’s OK to not connect. Don’t feel pressure, don’t feel guilty. Do what you’re comfortable with.
Ignore requests you don’t want. Other people don’t get notified when you ignore them; they just don’t get alerted that you’ve joined their networks. With a little detective work they could deduce that you’re ignoring them. But if you don’t know them well, they’re probably not spending much time thinking about you anyway.
Disconnect from irrelevant people in your network. Even after you accept a connection request, you can still disconnect down the road. It’s easy, but it’s a little hard to find. On the web interface, you go to the person’s LinkedIn profile and hover over the down-arrow to the right of the “Endorse” button next to their picture. Then pull down to “Remove Connection”, and you’re good to go (or stop, as it were.)
If you reply, be professional. LinkedIn gives you the option to reply to a connection request. Some people use this feature to ask why the requestor wants to connect or to explain their attitude towards accepting connection requests. Personally I’m not a huge fan of this approach. I’ve seen it create too many hurt feelings.
Unwanted LinkedIn connections are a mildly annoying fact of modern business life. The people who send them may be clueless, confused, or desperate, but they’re not bad people. As long as you’re professional and compassionate in the way you deal with them, you won’t go wrong.