Career Tool Box #29: 3 Lessons from Kelly Blazek’s LinkedIn Debacle

How We Can All Be Better, Francis Underwood Style

By Alex Sukhoy

“There’s no better way to overpower a trickle of doubt then with a flood of naked truth.”— Francis Underwood, House of Cards

The debacle that all of local press is discussing regarding Kelly Blazek’s harsh rejections to multiple parties interested in connecting with her on LinkedIn has now reached national level as even AdWeek ran a story. Something about all of this pinched a nerve and those who may be standing by her will not speak up or reveal themselves. She’s since all but removed her presence in social media.

Back in 2011, I sent Kelly a LinkedIn request. Never thought to keep her decline email to me but it was along the lines of, “I only accepted LinkedIn requests from people I have met in person.” Even back then, this sounded primitive to me. Isn’t the whole point of social media to connect with people online and then do things together and help each other offline?

If you’ve read the emails she sent to these people, they were quite harsh, in tone, in message and certainly in ego. She also finger pointed out an entire generation as being entitled. Finally, she alienated the very people that she, as the Chief of Cleveland’s job bank, should have been helping.

First, via social media and now in the press, it’s created quite a dialog. It’s also surfacing game-changing questions on perception – in business, communication, media, ethics, gender and age:

*Are all Millennials self-entitled while all Baby Boomers self-important?
*Are you obligated to accept everyone’s LinkedIn request?
*Do we take all of our life’s disappointments public until we get the results we want?
*Is nothing that we communicate to anyone, at any level, no longer private?
*Would any of this caused the stir it did if the communication exchange was between two men vs. two women?

The answers to all of these questions is a gray gradient and depending on who will answer, you’ll get a different point of view. Taking a step back, let’s philosophically address some of these, but in ways where we can all be better, where we can all improve the dialog and understand that the first lesson of business is that markets never rest.

I asked Tony Ramos, Graphic designer and social media observer, to chime in this piece. Tony and I both grew up in Chicago’s North Shore suburbs. And we then connected in Cleveland. We’ve exchanged hundreds of comments and stories with each other and have a lot of friends – creative friends – in common. And, oh, yes, we’re both addicted to House of Cards, which is an impeccable, yet disturbing, lesson in human behavior.

So here’s our list:

1. “There is a shift going on in the balance of power,” says Tony. “Not sure if (Malcolm) Gladwell made note of this tipping point by name, but I have a feeling it’s in the general areas of these axes: labor and management, crowd and gatekeeper, young and old, digital networkers and flesh-pressing backslappers. I’m reminded of the scene early on in House of Cards (US) where Zoe Barnes is simultaneously getting fired via sexist, derogatory terms and tweeting about it. I’m also reminded, and would like to remind others, that Diana Mekota (who broadcast Blazek’s decline) forthrightly took her case to Reddit, Imgur, and Facebook, according to her quote in The Plain Dealer. I’m guessing Mekota is no babe in the woods, but she’s no Zoe Barnes either. She gambled and won. Blazek didn’t think she was gambling, and lost. The takeaway might be that one’s assumptions of who holds the power in your situation are never more than assumptions. If you’re passive, they will be tested. If you’re proactive, you can choose to test them.”

2. Transparency is a trap. Well, it can be. Today, almost everything we do and say is being monitored and recorded by someone – the NSA, foreign spies, hackers, etc. The list gets longer by the day and to be completely off the grid isn’t plausible, especially for job seekers. This does mean we all need to hold ourselves to a higher standard of behavior. A smart friend once advised me to, “Never put bad news in an email. Pick up the phone and call.” Otherwise, anything and everything you do and say will be held accountable in a court of public judgement. And then shared with the press. Or on Twitter. By Zoe Barnes.

3. Pushing out by leaning in. I spent two full decades in Corporate America and, with the exception of two male bosses, have been honored to work for the smartest, strongest and most successful women anyone would be grateful to have worked for and learned from. And, at the same time, women still get paid less money for the same work. This, of course, perpetuates the threat of women against women. Adds Tony, “It can’t be overemphasized how gender played a role here, too. Any other permutation besides female-female would likely have resulted in a different story, and, I’m guessing, less traction…Women have changed the story of work. Women are gatekeepers and jobseekers alike. There are new plays and players on the field. Learn them.” For further education, watch what happens between Gillian Cole and Claire Underwood.

As Tony wisely summarizes it, “This story caught traction because it resonated with people. Big time. Might even say it pulls out the popular tropes of today: the social-media savvy boomerang, the narcissistic Wicked Witch of the West, the tweet-obsessed hive-mind, the anonymous commentators who show their true colors, the terrible job market that hangs over us all. Everyone took part. And every event fell right in sequence…We like our stories to unfold before us, and especially like our happy endings.”

Yes we do. Which means that in a world that isn’t fair we must also learn to adjust to how things are changing and perhaps drive some of that change. Per Frank Underwood, “Generosity is its own form of power.”

I’m grateful to Tony for contributing to this piece. Especially since our only communication – ever- has been only through Facebook. You see, we’ve never actually met in person.

Because we trust Frank Underwood’s advice, on LinkedIn and on life:

“After all, we are nothing more or less than what we choose to reveal.”


Photo: Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright as Francis and Claire Underwood on House of Cards

Alexsandra (Alex) Sukhoy, a globally-networked creative and business professional, is CEO of Creative Cadence LLC. Her Career Coaching skills have resulted in numerous success stories for her clients.

Her third novella, The ’90s: Diary of a Mess, reached #14 on the Kindle Poetry & Anthologies Best Sellers List.

Alex recently completed her new book: The Dating GPS™, with childhood friend and Relationship Coach Anita Myers.

Follow Alex on Twitter: @creativecadence


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