USA TODAY columnist Steven Petrow offers advice about living in the Digital Age.
My column of two weeks ago (“Don’t make this mistake on LinkedIn”) drew lots of ire from some readers, not to mention a whole new crop of questions about conduct on LinkedIn. That column focused on what I called “inappropriate” or “bad” LinkedIn behavior, and I think it resonated so strongly because, as Peter Vincent, vice president of human rescources at the Audubon Society, told me: “LinkedIn is such a critical element in career management.”
Half a dozen readers specifically asked about a LinkedIn “mistake” of another kind, which is well-represented by this email:
“I quit LinkedIn because if you hit the wrong button in LinkedIn — something related to Search for connections — Linked In will automatically send an invitation to EVERYONE IN YOUR CONTACT LIST!!! Imagine: people you fired, people who fired you, ex-spouses and lovers, the guy you owe money to, your cable company, your proctologist, your kid’s teachers — you get the idea. LinkedIn’s behavior in this regard is extremely arrogant, insulting, and embarrassing.”
As it turns out, a number of threads exist about this very topic on the LinkedIn site, including “LinkedIn automatically invited my entire contact list” and “People complaining I’ve sent invites to them but I didn’t.”
One user posted his advice: “Beware hasty button-clicking! As pointed out elsewhere in this thread, [LinkedIn] standard practice is to use [a confusing user interface] to get users to do things they don’t intend to do. For example, to NOT invite somebody you SELECT their name, and to invite somebody you DE-SELECT.”
Does that sound confusing? Well, it does because it is. In a nutshell, let’s say you have 500 names among your contacts and you want to send invites to 50. To do that, you would need to “deselect” 450. This is neither intuitive – nor easy.
When I asked a LinkedIn about this issue spokesperson May Chow wrote in an email that “You select who to connect to; you can turn off syncing at anytime; and we will never send invitations to your contacts without your permission.”
That sounds great, but it’s still a problem that the LinkedIn interface is so confusing. That’s LinkedIn’s bad. On the other hand, it’s our bad if we fail to read and understand the terms of service and just blithely check “yes” or “agree” and then forget about what we’ve signed off on.
What to do if you’re in this unfortunate and potentially embarrassing position? If no action has been taken on the invitation request, go to this page for instructions on how to cancel it. If the invitation has been accepted, you can still remove them from your list (click here for details). If you need additional help, send a message to LinkedIn Customer Service asking them to “withdraw” all “pending” invitations.
In general, I don’t advise resending a message of apology (just let sleeping dogs lie) but do respond to anyone who asks you: “Why the heck did you just try to connect with me?” with something like, “Oops! I didn’t mean to send connection requests to my entire contact list but now that we’re on touch, how about it?”
And remember: Read before you click.
What’s been your experience with LinkedIn? Let me know in the comments section.
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