Social Media Etiquette for the Networked Era
September 21, 2014 1:04 PM   Subscribe

What is the current day etiquette around maintaining and removing connections on LinkedIn?

I regularly clean up my LinkedIn connections. Someone I removed a while back just wrote me asking why since they'd done a small project for me 5 years ago and I'd left a recommendation. Since its impersonally done (for a bunch of reasons including the fact that I don't want to cross 500), I sent back a non committal "Oh it must be LinkedIn because it happened to me too" which it had.

A recommender had removed me from their connections recently thus I "lost" their recommendation. It stung for a moment, then I shrugged and carried on. I would certainly never dream of asking them why.

But now this person wrote back saying (whining) that they need it for a project, the money hadn't been that good so they want the recommendation back (!!) they saw I removed them etc etc which I did not reply.

Now they've sent another request to link. I'm embarrassed for them because I would never follow up to ask why someone removed me from their connections or work history from years ago.

And honestly, I would not work with this person again. I gave them a recommendation to help them on their way but now its been 5 years and I'd prefer they carried on with their professional life on their own.

But at the same time I don't want to be an asshole so am putting this Ask out on what is teh best way to manage this kind of awkward.
posted by infini to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Just ignore them.

(The idea that you have to engage with people when they want to engage with you, especially over the Internet, is one of my least favorite things about the Internet.)
posted by Etrigan at 1:12 PM on September 21, 2014 [11 favorites]

You're within your rights to just ignore him, and it WAS tacky of him to ask, but I would probably do the opposite and just re-add them and add the recommendation. It's not like this is FB where the person you link to gets to stalk you. There's no information worth stalking on linkedin and it's essentially free, so why not? Of course you don't have to interact with people you don't want to interact with, but linkedin doesn't even come close to qualifying as interaction to me. Maybe I'm just less confrontational than Etrigan.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:20 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

The place to be stringent about your LI connections is on initial connection. It seems excessively hostile and rude to remove a recommendation freely given. While yes, this person is clearly not operating at the height of professionalism by lodging financial complaints about a project closed 5 years ago, be the bigger person and re-instate it. In future, do not remove recommendations without a concrete reason.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:20 PM on September 21, 2014 [24 favorites]

As you acknowledged when you mentioned the stinging feeling, it's a pretty negative thing to rescind one's recommendation of another for no reason other than passing time. (Although "rescind" is probably too strong a word---perhaps I should say "remove," as it's possible that only the recipient will notice. However, for all you know they linked to the recommendation in a cover letter, for example.) Maybe you could amend your personal policy to trim only those you haven't recommended publicly?
posted by Mapes at 1:21 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't think LinkedIn connections ever need to be cleaned up, unlike Facebook which I prune regularly. I don't think you need to be so stingy with your recommendations. Obviously it would be nice if he had acquired more recs in 5 years but, he didn't.
posted by bleep at 1:29 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to quickly note that I had not realized there was a recommendation connected when removing connections from the back end, nor that they "dissapeared" as well. My intent was not to de-recommend so much as disconnect. Sometimes you connect when the project begins but over time you realize that you really would never wish to be professionally linked to that person again.

Having read their whine I'm hovering between two choices:

1. Tell them to get over it since it happened to me as well but i kept a downloaded soft copy of the recommendation, had they? (the reptilian hindbrain response to whining)


2. Offer to send a recommendation by email instead.

I also know that what they are asking for will directly compete with the type of work I'm currently pitching for.

(sorry mod, will step back out of the thread again, wanted to clarify to DarlingBri's 'hostile' reference, and that's discerning, not stingy ;p)
posted by infini at 1:32 PM on September 21, 2014

It's always possible that you can change your mind about people. I've disconnected from people who I developed a strong negative opinion of, and also disconnected from folks who I came to realize had a strong negative opinion of me. My take on this is that they can't help me, nor I them, and therefore maintaining the first degree LinkedIn connection will not do any good and may do some harm if someone asked their (or my) opinion. BUT, there were no reviews involved. That would have made the matter trickier, but I probably would have gone ahead and disconnected anyway.

There was one colleague who disconnected from me after switching jobs, and that stung a bit, but that was entirely his prerogative and I respect that. I'd never pester him about reconnecting or ask him why he disconnected. I interpret that as his way of telling me that he can't be of any future help to me professionally. I think your former colleague is acting very unprofessionally and reinforcing that the decision to disconnect was a good one. I'm in the "just ignore" camp.
posted by jazzbaby at 2:07 PM on September 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Honestly I don't really understand the need to prune your LI connections. There is the occasional "wait I actually have no idea who this person is" or "I have realized that I really don't want to be professionally associated at all with this person" but other than that it comes off as kinda rude to disconnect from people. LI is people you *know* not people you necessarily *like*.

Agree with "The place to be stringent about your LI connections is on initial connection." I find myself regularly not accepting connections for someone who I barely know or only vaguely remember.

Then again, I think the only people who put a lot of stock in LinkedIn recommendations are the people who have them on their page. No good hiring manager would ever take them seriously. I was recently appalled that my coworker gave a departing coworker a lovely LI recommendation because the guy was a total jerk. I asked her about it and she said "well he gave me one so I was reciprocating." So I now take even less stock in them.
posted by radioamy at 3:27 PM on September 21, 2014 [10 favorites]

Having read their whine I'm hovering between two choices:

I'd suggest not limiting yourself to two choices.
Nasrudin was standing near a river. A man on the other side shouted to him, “Hey! How can I get across the river?”
“You are across!“ Nasrudin shouted back.
You can just let them be across the river. No response is necessary to the wicked.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:39 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

It sounds to me like you do not want to be professionally connected with this person anymore, nor would you recommend them if asked? I think the politest and easiest response is to ignore their latest email.
posted by muddgirl at 3:44 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think pruning your linkedin connections just based on age is weird and not the norm, to say the least. It's not Facebook, there's no personal information there, and you're not friends. If you think that, you're doing linkedin wrong. But, yeah, I would just ignore this person's follow up at this point.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:04 PM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

You can ignore, or you can say, "I've pared down my connections to those people that I network with on a regular basis. I would not feel comfortable recommending your work after such a long time. Good luck!"

Then ignore for the rest of your life.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:11 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's pretty weird to recommend someone and then remove the recommendation. So I would not go around giving out recommendations if you also regularly remove your connections. Either keep regularly disconnecting from your connections but stop giving people recommendations, or keep giving recommendations but don't disconnect from the people you recommend.

As for this person, though, since you would specifically not want to work with them again, I see no reason why you should want to newly recommend them at this point. It wouldn't benefit you, and you're not obligated to do it, nor would it be some wonderfully saintly act of charity (it'd just give them a boost relative to some other person you haven't met), so why would you do it?
posted by John Cohen at 4:12 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

OP -- why do you want to say under 500 connections on LinkedIn? I am authentically curious about this. As with other posters I would say that it is a breached in of LinkedIn etiquette ever to remove connections other than for some really good reason -- but if there's a good reason to stay under 500, I guess that might fit.

I would say that in 10 years on LinkedIn with ~1500 plus contacts by now, no connection has ever abused LinkedIn regarding me (my profile is relatively high powered) nor my connections (a few of whom are very high powered by any standard).
posted by MattD at 4:30 PM on September 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

If I understand correctly, you removed them, and your previous recommendation for them, despite them having done nothing wrong to deserve it, except that you now consider them competition?

This scenario doesn't paint you in a good light.

Granted, it's humiliating on their part to have asked - but I can understand why they did, too -especially if they'd have no idea what they did to "deserve" the loss of the recommendation, after all this time when you were supposedly satisfied.
posted by stormyteal at 5:08 PM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: they need it for a project, the money hadn't been that good so they want the recommendation back

Not your problem. This person is being pushy, uncouth, and uncool. I wouldn't want to be associated with someone like this, professionally; imagine if they treat clients with this same level of entitlement and neediness? I wouldn't want that reflecting on me by association due to a recommendation I'd given years ago, PARTICULARLY if this person is going to be using that recommendation to assert their bona fides.

And I suspect this wouldn't be the last "HELP MEEEEEE" request you would get from this person.

Professional alliances shift over time. It's fine to disconnect with anyone at any time for any reason. LinkedIn is not a support group; and it's not stingy or mean-spirited to cull your connections to reflect your changing attitudes toward your career and those who are in your career world.

Ignore them.
posted by nacho fries at 6:27 PM on September 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: nacho fries nailed it. That describes why I stopped working with them.

If I understand correctly, you removed them, and your previous recommendation for them, despite them having done nothing wrong to deserve it, except that you now consider them competition?

Not exactly. (And to repeat, I had no idea that the recommendation dissapears with the disconnection)

Over the past 6 or 7 years I have developed a method by which to do something which has only now gone mainstream. They are now with a very large company that could walk all over me if they chose to do so. The only thing that differentiates me is that work I have put in over the past 6 years vs the big company's well known brand and global image. Note that this person did not get in touch in the intervening 5 years but only now that this topic has gotten visibility in the past few weeks.

If I recommend this person, then I am effectively saying that they can do what I taught them do and in all honesty I cannot recommend them that way. Even if I were to recommend them and they did the work, it would not be done well. So it would reflect very badly on me and my work and methods.

I have no hesitation at all recommending someone to do what I have developed, IF the quality of their output is worthy of the recommendation.
posted by infini at 12:48 AM on September 22, 2014

The situation you described sounds crazy and I don't think it's a big deal you removed that individual, but to answer the above-the-fold question, the typical etiquette is to never remove connections on LinkedIn.
posted by capricorn at 7:48 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

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