Here’s Why Everyone Should Stop Choosing LinkedIn’s Crying CEO

Many social media users love to criticize and complain, and in the past week much of that negative attention has focused on HyperSocial’s “Crying CEO” Braden Wallake. Wallake hit the headlines with an anguished post, complete with a tearful selfie after his company had to lay off three employees.

The post went viral, accompanied by a slew of angry comments, most of which blamed Wallake for talking about himself and his raw emotions, rather than his new jobless employees and the emotions they had to feel. “Completely narcissistic and deaf,” wrote one typical comment. “I don’t think anyone cares that he posts a crying selfie. I think the problem is that he fired 3 people who have no income left.”

Let’s be real about this. Other leaders have posted in the past how sorry they were for firing people. This one only went viral because of this selfie. It’s just not the kind of stuff people typically post on LinkedIn, which is typically used as a platform for people to brag about their own expertise or professionalism. Real emotions are rare, and I think maybe they shouldn’t be.

Here’s more of what I think is wrong with most of the criticism that has been leveled at Wallake.

1. They punish him for his honesty.

The expert warns that one of The biggest danger of social media is that people make themselves appear more successful, more attractive, and happier in their posts than they are in real life. They effectively paint their lives and careers the same way models and actors have their images retouched before they are published online or in magazines. When the rest of us compare our own lives to these images, we end up feeling bad about ourselves.

Nowhere is this airbrush more prevalent than LinkedIn, which is the professional face we present to the world. It’s so full of self-aggrandizing posts that the @BestofLinkedIn Twitter account was created just to poke fun at them. And while some have questioned whether Wallake was genuinely upset by the layoffs, to most observers, including me, his grief seems sincere enough. My friends, if we want social media to be less inauthentic and insincere, please don’t berate people for showing their true feelings.

2. Most critics show their own ignorance.

“You didn’t cut your own salary. Could you have done anything but cry and post a post?” Rachelle Akuffo, an anchor at Yahoo Finance, asked in a video report on the publication. A large, well-funded news organization like Yahoo should really do better at research and fact-checking, because in fact, Wallake says he cut his own salary to $0 due to HyperSocial’s financial troubles.

Many felt that instead of expressing his own feelings about the layoffs, he should have published about the wonderful employees he had to fire, letting people know about their skills and the great work they had. done to help them find new jobs. Wallake did too, although he wisely waited to ask their permission before posting about them.

3. The message did good.

Many, many people on social media have complained that Wallake doesn’t care enough about the people he lets go. But do the critics themselves care about these people? If so, you might think they would be thrilled to see the effect the post had.

Because it went viral, it made Wallake, for now, one of America’s hottest executives. He used that notoriety to do what many critics asked him to do. He created an article about Noah Smith, one of the employees he had fired, describing Smith in glowing terms as both a person and an employee. He let readers know what Smith’s skills are and what kinds of jobs he is looking for.

It worked. Today, Wallake posted an image from Smith’s smartphone showing a long list of LinkedIn posts, many of which appear to contain job postings. Wallake himself also received a large number of messages, many of which suggested he should die. Still, he wrote, seeing all the messages directed at Smith “makes every nasty comment worth it.”

As for Smith, who was fired and then suddenly found himself in the spotlight, he always stood up for Wallake and the job of CEO in tears. And, he wrote, “For anyone looking to hire me, I’m only interested in working for the likes of Braden Wallake.” How many bosses do you know whose employees would say the same thing?

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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