The other day, I was reading an article on LinkedIn about gender equality at the executive level. It was written by a female executive who noted that there are very few female C-level executives in any size company and that diversity only helps companies to succeed. The article was in no way inflammatory, and it was very well written. However, a quick scan of the comment section was horrifying.
I am alternately amazed and disgusted by what people will post under their own names. In the case of this article, there were several comment threads that were blatantly misogynistic. Some of the offenses included name calling, making remarks that marginalize and degrade women, and a bunch of baseless, ad hominem attacks on the author of the article.
You are free to have whatever stance you like on whatever issue is at hand. But you need to realize that voicing your opinion can damage your brand. As I’ve said many times, your brand is built slowly, with every interaction you have, whether that’s in real life or a digital interaction. Is expressing a controversial opinion that important that you would risk damaging it?
Let’s say that one of the commenters is currently a job seeker who submits his LinkedIn profile to an open position. The recruiter or hiring manager goes to look at the candidate’s profile page, clicks “Recent Activity,” and reads the opinions he expressed in the article about gender equality. What she reads in those comments will give her immediate insight into the character of the candidate; no professional accomplishment, fancy degree, or big job title is going to compensate for the inflammatory remarks that he published for all the world to see.
It’s not just the brands of those who are posting inflammatory content that is being damaged. The brands of anyone who “liked” any of the remarks are being degraded as well. If you like something that is offensive, and you’re not afraid to admit that—or maybe you’re proud of it—your credibility and judgment are immediately called into question.
Before you click “submit,” ask yourself the following: Could what I’ve just written be construed as sexist, racist, homophobic, or bigoted? Is what I’m about to post purely professional, or does it have a political or religious bent to it? What opinion of me might other readers have, upon reading this? If you have any hesitation or question at all, do not post. It is not necessary to comment on every single issue about which you feel passionately. Your colleagues, clients, and vendors needn’t know your stance on various social issues. There are some things that are best kept private, or kept within the confines of your own family’s holiday gatherings. You do not want to damage your brand by doing things that say to people that you lack decorum, intelligence, or class. Err on the side of caution and exercise both self-control and good judgment.