It seems a local “communications professional” – Kelly Blazek – who provides a job bank service, has been sending nastygrams to some of the people who sought to connect with her.
You can read all about it on Cleveland.com (click here), or merely search on “Kelly Blazek” in Google or Bing, or on Twitter search for #kellyblazek.
The story has been picked up all around the country and has set tongues wagging, particularly among those of us who label ourselves as “professional communicators,” among other things.
Sadly and ironically, if you read the Tweets or comments forums attached to the various articles, there’s very little professionalism being exhibited.
And so here I go wading into the fray with my two cents…
The blazing Blazek/Mekota meltdown
I’ve met Blazek and receive her job bank emails. She’s worked hard to develop a good and helpful service.
And, while she’s pleasant enough in person, you can get a sense of her less tolerant side by reading the notes that top every job list she sends out. Here’s a snippet from a recent email:
“[A] plea regarding LinkedIn. PLEASE DON’T. If we haven't met personally and also worked together, it's not appropriate to ask to connect. I can't possibly vouch for the thousands of strangers who subscribe to my goofy gift, and won't accept wishful requests to go shopping through my connections (sounds ugly, but that’s what it is). Thanks.”When you’re providing a free service and getting hit with multiple requests for help every day, it’s reasonable to establish rules and insist people follow them. It’s also reasonable to ignore those who don’t follow your rules.
“Feel free to forward this e-mail to communications, marketing, media, creative and fundraising job hunters. They can subscribe by sending a request to join at ClevelandJobBankfirstname.lastname@example.org WHICH MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY a brief statement (less than 200 characters) about the industry/job title they seek. Only qualified individuals within our industry receive the Job Bank. Requests which include no background, degree and or qualification statement will be declined. Please do not send a resume when requesting membership.”
Basically you say a polite no or say nothing.
So far so good.
But apparently when Blazek received requests that were out of line, she felt the need to educate the senders.
And boy did she school them!
While most who received these blazing Blazek rejections shrugged their shoulders and soldiered on, one person – Diana Mekota (@PettieBettie) – decided she was going to do something.
She was mad as hell and she wasn’t going to take it anymore, by golly!
Mekota posted images of Blazek’s tactless emails on multiple social media sites, whipping her online audience into a frenzied Blazek backlash.
While Blazek has a few defenders, it seems the majority have sided with Mekota and are doing so with a vengeance.
Frankly, I think just about everyone’s been a loser in this debacle.
Snark can be deadly
The Blazek/Mekota affair will certainly become a case study used for years to come to teach the dos and don’ts of social media.
But I’m not sure, based on a cursory reading of the plethora of postings and comments that right lessons will be learned.
It seems that in our brave new social media fueled culture, anonymously damning people you don’t like is perfectly acceptable. More than one commenter has as much as said so.
Figuratively speaking, murder by Tweet of the disliked is now acceptable.
Here’s where I come out on this:
What Blazek was doing was wrong. Blazek’s emails were brilliantly awful and totally uncalled for. They were mean, nasty, arrogant, and, well, you get the drift. Someone needed to tell her this. Firmly. Face to face. One on one. And you can’t tell me that no one in her professional circles was aware of what she was doing. I’m sure there were a few who knew and chose to remain silent. Shame on them.Tragically, anonymity in online forums breeds contemptible behavior. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising given the fallen and sinful nature of mankind. Still, it’s sad and a little depressing. I guess this is what happens when teaching the “Golden Rule” is booted from classrooms.
How Mekota reacted was wrong. While many are admiring Mekota for “standing up” to Blazek, publiclyshaming and damaging another is generally wrong and unprofessional. I doubt that in a work setting Mekota would appreciate being called out in a staff meeting by her boss for making some kind of blunder. And if Mekota outed her boss in social media for doing so, well, she’d be fired in a New York microsecond.
Those blasting Blazek are wrong. It’s stunning that the majority of those berating Blazek have no sense of irony for doing to Blazek what they claim she’s done to Mekota and others. Sadly, the idea of “two wrongs don’t make a right” seems to have been lost. And even though unaffected by anything Blazek has done they feel entitled to sound off their outrage in often vile terms. Many are claiming to be “communications professionals” as they do so. Really?
Doing the same yields the same: Be different! Be nice!
The bottom-line here is that when confronted by meanness, being mean back only yields a lot more meanness.
Nothing gets better and a lot of people get hurt.
I wonder how those blasting Blazek would feel if because of this she was driven into homelessness, depression, a heart attack, suicide, or some other awful end? Would that be viewed as a just and good outcome? If you think so then I do not want to be your friend or colleague.
So what’s the right response to meanness?
I don’t know about you, but I learned a few principles in kindergarten and Sunday school that, frankly, apply in adulthood.
Here they are.:
1. Ignore it. On the playground, kids learn that when someone’s being a meany, the best way to deflate their negativity is simply to walk away and ignore them. The same is true in life.If no reconciliation can be reached, possibly, but only in very serious and rare situations is the right response to go public with a social media driven shamefest. For example, if someone is at risk of being physically harmed, a group of people is about to be financially hoodwinked, and so forth, then perhaps going public is a reasonable solution. But in virtually all non-life-threatening instances, public is probably not a good way to go. You’ll seriously tarnish your reputation while trying to destroy theirs.
2. Understand it. If a friend is having a bad day and snaps at you, you usually know to ask them if something’s wrong. Bad days can push us to be less than patient with others. If someone you really don’t know snaps at you, consider they may be having an off day (or an off life) and extend them some slack, at least until you learn differently.
3. Face it. Walking away doesn’t always work and is occasionally not feasible. When you’re working with someone day in and day out and they’re being a relentless cad, odds are you’re going to have to confront them.
A. First, talk to them privately, one on one, about your concerns. Be sure you’re heard but also be careful to listen and give them a chance to open up. Work toward a friendly solution.4. Forgive it. Forgiving is easier when the one perceived to be the offender acknowledges their wrongdoing. But this won’t always happen. Still, for your own sanity and sense of professionalism, the right response is forgiveness and not revenge. When there is acknowledgement of a fault and an apology is offered, then accept it graciously and work to build a bridge and make a new friend. And call others off of the shaming as well.
Apparently Mekota did try to do this via email with Blazek. Perhaps picking up the phone would have been a better approach.
If this doesn’t work or the behavior continues, then…
B. Second, talk to them in the presence of a trusted, neutral friend or colleague or two. Again, be heard and listen and seek a resolution.
Perhaps Mekota could have reached out to the person who referred her to Blazek for advice, even asking if there were others she could approach with her concerns who could mediate between her and Blazek.
If this doesn’t work or the behavior continues, then…
C. Third, go up the line to a broader audience, but carefully. In the workplace, this probably means involving your immediate supervisor and/or HR.
For Mekota, perhaps she could have approached someone at the Cleveland chapter of IABC or even at the national IABC office since Blazek had been given an IABC award. Perhaps there was another professional organization Blazek is connected to that could have been approached. Often, when others are being brought into the picture, a recalcitrant or stubborn offender will begin to pay attention.
You’re occasionally offensive and not everyone likes you either
Kelly Blazek was being rude. No matter how annoying, frustrating, or painful her rudeness was, it really boils down to a matter of bad manners. She did not deserve to be so brutally and publicly pilloried by social media meanies.
It would really be nice if someone could mediate between Blazek and Mekota (and others who feel they were slighted by Blazek) bringing them together for a friendly and healing discussion. Given the vitriol exhibited so far, I’m not sure this could ever happen.
In business or any part of life on this planet, we’re going to meet people we just don’t like and who rub us the wrong way. And our feelings are going to get hurt, many times.
The flip side of this is not everyone will like us and, even when we don’t mean to, we will offend others. It happens.
The solution is to first, try to get along, then, failing that, move along.
As Paul the Apostle said, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:17, NIV).
If it’s not possible? Then maybe the advice Jesus gave his disciples is apropos, in a metaphorical application: “If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them” (Luke 9:5, NIV).
But no matter what, it’s always best to not crucify people in social media, but rather to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
In fact, in one New Testament incident, two disciples wanted to call down fire (the biblical equivalent of a social media thrashing) on an unwelcoming village. Jesus said no and then they moved along (Luke 9:51-56, NIV).
As one of the few wise and more positive commenters stated in one of the forums:
“Everyone who lives and breathes and communicates online; everyone of us has skeletons of bad behavior, fatal faux pas, arrogant attitudes, and the like stuffed in our burgeoning digital closets. Everyone one of us is only one leaked email, one inappropriate Tweet, one rash blog post, one angry Reddit rant, one hidden microphone, one unnoticed phone camera away from being the next pilloried professional to be vilified at the hands of social media snarks. After all, the offense is in the eye of the beholder.”
“It’s time to come down from our high horses, log-off the forums, shut our pie holes, apply the balm of the ‘Golden Rule,’ and get back to work behaving like the professionals we all claim to be.”
“Civility and charity are much more attractive than snark and scourging.”Amen.
(Added 3/2/14): Another sane perspective on the issue: “Women behaving badly in LinkedIn exchange” (click here to read).