We're happy to present this article from our partners at Yahoo Shine.
It's the golden rule and the core of all communications etiquette: If you can't say something nice, don't say anything. Last Tuesday, Kelly Blazek, who runs the Cleveland Job Bank, learned that lesson the hard way when her email smackdown of a young job seeker named Diana Mekota, who contacted her through LinkedIn, went viral. "Love the sense of entitlement in your generation. And therefore I enjoy denying your invite," read Blazek's poison pen letter, in part. "You're welcome for your humility lesson of the year. Don't ever reach out to senior practitioners again and assume their carefully curated list of connections is available to you, just because you want to build your network."
Mekota posted the complete email on Reddit, Imgur, and Facebook, along with these comments: "Guess us twenty somethings should bow down to senior professional because clearly we have nothing to offer," and "Let's call this lady out." From there, it was like a torch thrown into a desert of parched tumbleweeds. In the ensuing hours, three other similarly nasty notes to other job hunters from Blazek, who calls herself the "Job Bank Mother," surfaced. During the social media firestorm that followed, Blazek deleted most of the contents of her blog and her LinkedIn, and took down her Twitter account.
For anyone who uses email and social media, it's hard not to cringe at this ugly debacle, both over Blazek's rudeness and how her rash and imperious behavior may have cost her so much. Her reputation has been trashed, and her online presence, upon which her job (sending email blasts to job seekers) depends, is destroyed –– at least for the time being. Yahoo Shine spoke with two experts, Barbara Pachter, who teaches business etiquette at Rutgers University, and Lizzie Post, Emily Post's great-great-granddaughter and co-author of "Emily Post's Etiquette, 18th Edition," about what we can learn from this email mess.
1. Don't let your emotions get the best of you. "It can be frustrating to deal with younger, more inexperienced people who might not know the protocol," Pachter, who's most recent book is "The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Eat, Greet, and Tweet Your Way to Success," tells Yahoo Shine. "But being aggressive won't accomplish anything." Post adds that she isn't a fan of strangers requesting to make connections on social media, but that Blazek's "execution was totally inappropriate."
2. Be positive and use others' mistakes as teachable moments. "She could have responded to Mekota and explained the proper etiquette," Pachter says. "Or if you don't have time, simply ignore the request." Rather than take this tack, Blazek took the time to write, "Apparently you have…decided that it would be stunningly helpful for your career prospects if I shared my 960+ LinkedIn connections with you –– a total stranger who has nothing to offer me."
3. Avoid impulsivity. "It's too easy to hit the send button," Pachter says. To avoid sending an email you might regret, she recommends leaving the recipient's address out until you have read it and then re-read it. Post also suggests reading sensitive emails out loud before you send them and adds that as soon as you feel that communication is becoming strained or tense, it's time for a phone call, not an email.
4. Don't underestimate the power of social media. "You have to be so careful about anything you put into print," Post says. Before you send and email or post something on social media site such as Facebook or Twitter, she suggests pausing to think about whether or not you would want to see it on a bulletin board in the center of your town or city. "If not, don't post it, tweet it, or put it into any form of text." After being posted on Facebook and Reddit, Blazek's letter was first picked up nationally by BuzzFeed, a site that targets Millennials –– who would be especially sympathetic to Mekota –– and also specializes in spreading viral content.
Both of our experts agreed that while Blazek's behavior was grossly improper and, as a seasoned professional, she should have known better, they also say that Mekota could still have gone public yet handled the situation with more grace. "Writing, 'Let's call this lady out,' –– that line furthers the spite," Post says. The two women now appear to be treading a more polite path. Blazek issued a direct apology to Mekota and a public apology that was printed in the local Cleveland media. For her part, Mekota accepted it in true Millennial fashion, by tweeting this:
#CLE is amazing, thank you all! Would like to let you know Kelly Blazek has sent a very nice apology email, for which I thank her.
— Diana Mekota (@PettieBettie) February 25, 2014
— Sarah B. Weir