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Five Ways to Manage Angry Internet Posts

Categories: Credibility , Ethics
Five Ways to Manage Angry Internet Posts

I have grown accustomed to receiving feedback, good and bad, over my 40 years in business and education. The feedback I dislike the most is that which comes from anonymous sources because it is hard to know what to do with it. Since you cannot loop back around and talk to the person you must ask questions and then make assumptions.

Until the past few years I tried to look at comments from anonymous sources as learning opportunities – times to reconcile discrepancies between what we thought we were doing and what the actual perception was. And sometimes, in cases when it was obvious we were dealing with an angry person or someone who just could not take personal responsibly for their own actions, just ignore it.

But that was then and the internet is now and many people widely believe everything they read on it.

Impact on Recruiting. I am proud to say our company is widely respected and the service provider of choice for thousands of individuals and companies in our market areas. Beginning four or five years ago, though, anonymous internet postings from disgruntled, poor performing employees started to show-up. These comments were on internet sites specifically set-up for people to randomly, and anonymously, take shots at companies and products.

And if you think I am making this stuff up, here is a recent e-mail from a female applicant we wisely turned down for a job:

“… I've been having a miserable day and this was the cherry on top. I am more than qualified, but much like assholes everyone has an opinion. Mine is that your company is probably sub par at best and that slandering it on Yelp will provide me with much delight.”

When these internet posts first started to appear a few years ago we did nothing. Because they were so few in number we were able to figure out who made the post and knew there was a personally troubling backstory - a story that supported why they were no longer working for us. We never figured anyone would take it seriously.

But then we discovered that some job applicants were actually reading and believing these negative posts. While we were astonished that one would take time to read a “rant” comment and believe it, we knew then we needed a strategy to minimize the impact.

Strategy to Manage Negative Internet Posts. Experts tell us now that we should be more aggressive about making sure positive posts are made on the same websites on which “rants” are posted. It is also important not to respond in anger because this draws more angry people to the site. In an article on the NPR site All Tech Considered experts note that 50 percent of the people who make these types of posts have serious anger issues and angry people seek out places where they can just anonymously rant.

Here are five suggestions for dealing with negative internet posts.

  1. Respond as soon as you see the post. This sends the message that your company monitors the sites.
  2. Always take the high road and do not respond in anger.
  3. Have an appropriate management official respond on the site in a professional way and offer-up contact information if anyone would like to speak further about the issue. In this Forbes article Tough Crowd: Smart Ways To Deal With Angry Customers Online by Alex Honeysett he gives us some good tips on how to respond to customer complaints.
  4. Encourage satisfied, loyal employees to make posts on various sites. These types of team members will be able to ignore and discount any negative comments they might read.
  5. Encourage satisfied, loyal customers to do the same.

I personally read hundreds of positive feedback comments every year about our company and the work our team members do. So our strategy this year will be to get these messages onto the sites that applicants look at. Positively motivated applicants will then get a better sense of who we really are, and angry applicants can go post more angry rants somewhere else.  

March 03, 2015 14:08

A Tale of Two Interviews and Lying on Resumes

Categories: Hiring , Ethics

Because we are always in pursuit of quality employees I am always reading and looking for insights that might help us with our recruiting. Here are three items I stumbled across this week.

A Tale of Two Interviews and Lying on Resumes

How Random Disrespect Can Hurt You. In a piece on Mashable, Tim Chester told a story about how a man on the subway was rude to another passenger and that passenger turned-out later to be the person interviewing the offender for a job. Here is what Chester wrote:

“The man was travelling on the London Underground Monday when a fellow passenger blocked his way. He responded in the traditional London manner, with a push, a shove and some of the expletive-laden compliments so familiar with dwellers in the capital.

Perhaps he was stressed; he had an interview lined up for the role of Python Developer at Forward Partners for later that day. What he didn't realize was that his victim was Matt Buckland, Head of Talent and Recruiting at Forward Partners, who had one task for the afternoon: fill the role of Python Developer.”

It turns out later that day the offender who ran into Buckland showed up for a job interview.

“It was totally awkward,” Buckland told the BBC. “So I approached it by asking him if he'd had a good commute that morning. We laughed it off and in a very British way I somehow ended up apologizing.”

Needless to say the offender did not get the job.

How Kindness Can Help You. I read a story in the 2015 Old Farmer’s Almanac this week by Nancy Pullen, who was a contest winner for an essay about coincidences. Here is what Nancy wrote:

“In 1984, on a turbulent flight into my hometown, I comforted the flyer next to me who was in tears until the wheels touched down. She thanked me, and we shared a laugh.

In 1985, I found myself in dire straits and really needed a job. On my way to an interview, I spotted a woman whose car had broken down. She looked frantic. Hoping that I wouldn’t be late, I offered her a ride. It was the woman from the plane! We recognized each other, shared another laugh, and determined that we were headed to the same block.

We parted way in a garage and I headed for my interview. When my name was called and I was ushered into an office, I saw behind the desk…the lady! We burst out laughing, and she said, 'You’re hired!' She’s the best boss I’ve ever had.”

In the stories about the interviews it is interesting to note that the first story was about a man and the second about a woman.

How Resumes Can Deceive You. I was forwarded an interesting infographic report by BackgroundChecks.org on statistics about how applicants lie on their resumes. When you go to this site you can get a very nice visual report with sources. Here are a few distressing highlights that caught my attention:

•     70% of college graduates would lie on a resume to get a job they want

•     53% (that’s every other resume) contains falsifications

•     Only 51% of employers say they would automatically dismiss an applicant who lied

•     Men lie twice as much as women

As we and our customers continue our pursuit for great employees, we can only hope we get the kind of folks that stop and help us when we need it and tell us the truth on their resumes and during their interviews.

February 26, 2015 16:42

Leaders Should Learn to Forgive

Categories: Leadership and Management Lessons , Ethics
Leaders Should Learn to Forgive

People quite often “stretch the truth” or lie, even experienced and wise people like Brian Williams. While it fascinates me why the public so passionately takes shots at Williams, who really has not hurt any of us, I will put aside my opinion about that for another day. However, since I have encountered lying behavior many times in my career, I have wondered how injured parties can be better “forgivers.”

Last week I read a terrific article in the New York Times by David Brooks called The Act of Rigorous Forgiving. In this article, Brooks articulates very well four steps for “rigorous forgiveness”, which have been echoed over the years by leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr.

Each time I encounter a situation where someone I like or respect is lying, I remind myself of these words from King: “There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us.” About 14 years ago my wife, Patti, and I heard a powerful sermon by a minister we knew and liked. The sermon included a personal story about the minister and a homeless person that was very inspirational. About a week later Patti saw the exact same story, authored by someone else months before, posted on another church’s bulletin board where she was working at a health clinic. It appeared to us that our minister had read and copied the story. Of course, this immediately changed our perception of the minister and was a good example of “some evil in the best of us.” I did talk to the minister later and as I think about it now realize I experienced these four steps Brooks wrote about.

  1. Pre-emptive Mercy. Are we open to forgive? Have we developed an attitude that allows us to forgive people who harm us? King says this needs to be a lifetime pursuit to “…over and over again, forgive those who inflict evil and injury upon us.” Brooks writes that when we practice pre-emptive mercy we create a welcoming environment so the offender can confess and we can begin the process of forgiving.
  2. Judgment. This is the period where we gather information about the offense and try to understand and evaluate the person. When I encounter someone who is lying, I often ask myself, “Why are they lying and what is the person afraid of?” We all have fears and these fears sometimes make us do things we should not do. During this judgment step we try to determine from the offense whether the person is a flawed character or not.
  3. Confession and Penitence. Does the offender admit the offense and take responsibility? Do they take the opportunity to self-evaluate, apologize, and plan ways to perform penitence or restitution? If offenders do this, it helps them grow and become better people and team members. If they do not, the offenders really only hurt themselves. The offended can forgive and move on.
  4. Reconciliation and Re-trust. The final stage of forgiveness is the one where the relationship between the offended and the offender heals and grows and trust is slowly re-built. King once said, “Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning. It is the lifting of a burden or the canceling of a debt.”

We do need to recognize that offenders, if they are a good people, are feeling some level of shame and are trying to re-build their own trust in themselves.

And forgiving them allows us to be better people and, I think, better leaders.

(If this topic interests you, I recommend reading King’s sermon called “Loving Your Enemies”, which was delivered at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, at Christmas, 1957. Martin Luther King wrote it while he was in jail for committing nonviolent civil disobedience during the Montgomery bus boycott.)  

February 19, 2015 18:13

Entrepreneurship Can Make a Difference in Africa

Category: Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is always required if you want to build a robust and healthy economy. Entrepreneurs are people who see opportunities where others do not and who see barriers as a way to invigorate their life.

I always enjoy reading about entrepreneurship in Africa because it is especially hard to be successful. The barriers in many African countries include corrupt governments, poor infrastructures (e.g. Education, roads, public utilities, transportation), and very low personal incomes.

Westerners have gone to Africa and taught people how to build micro-enterprises and many have been successful. My friend from Rotary Dr. Bob Herald, for example, helped develop and expand a honey production micro-business in Northern Uganda, which has had a positive impact on 500 families there.

Entrepreneurship Can Make a Difference in Africa

Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola of Wecyclers. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs are those Africans who are able to see how free-enterprise and entrepreneurship work in developed countries and then return home and use their leadership skills and entrepreneurial talents to build businesses there. In Fast Company I read about a wonderful example, Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola. Adebiyi-Abiola is a young woman from Lagos, Nigeria who came to the United States to get her MBA at M.I.T.

While in Boston Adebiyi-Abiola saw how we recycled and disposed of trash. In Nigeria only about 40 percent of trash was removed and there is litter everywhere. She wondered how she could get her fellow Nigerians to care about trash. The article describes how she tested incentives and finally developed a company called Wecyclers that is a trash for cash exchange that incents local citizens to collect recyclables.

Wecyclers now goes door to door each week and processes 40 tons of trash each month. Adebiyi-Abiola said, “Now they think, I shouldn’t just throw this Coke bottle on the floor or out the window.”

Upcoming Ugandan Youth Exchange. In May or June this year our Portsmouth Rotary Club and Friends Forever are participating in a youth exchange program that brings youth from conflicting tribes in the Kajjansi, Uganda area to the United States to learn peaceful conflict-resolution skills and leadership while living together here for a few weeks. I expect to be participating in a few of the leadership sessions and maybe we can introduce these young people to entrepreneurship as part of the curriculum. I wonder if there are a few entrepreneurs among them.

February 11, 2015 18:36

Were the Patriots Just Lucky?

Categories: Teamwork , General
Were the Patriots Just Lucky?

I am a huge New England Patriots fan and acknowledge that maybe luck was in our favor on Sunday night when the Patriots won the Super Bowl. In football, like many sports, when two equally talented teams play it is often just the bounce of a ball that can determine a winner. Like many fans, I thought the lucky bounce of the football had once again “done us in” when the Seattle receiver, Jermaine Kearse, made a remarkable catch of a ball that bounced from hand to body to hand many times.

Then Malcolm Butler made a great interception on the goal line. Luck had finally turned in our favor. But was it really luck? Not really. It was where preparation, talent, and effort allowed him to seize an opportunity. On that play, if Butler had just gone through the motions, the Seahawks receiver, Ricardo Lockette, would have scored the winning touchdown. But Butler, using natural instincts and good training, drove himself toward the ball and got there a fraction of a second ahead of Lockette. (Photo by Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

It was Butler’s instinct and extra effort that allowed him to seize that opportunity, not luck. While defensive backs and receivers are trained to do this, many times their instincts or effort let them down and they miss opportunities.

This is true in life and business, too. It is preparation, talent, and effort that seize opportunities when they arise. And, in most cases, it is effort that is most important. If you are in sales, do you push yourself to make more calls? If you are in customer service, do you work hard at understanding and empathizing with the customer? If you are in accounting, do you double-check the entries?

I was listening to a Nerdist podcast when they were interviewing Tom Bergeron, the host of Dancing with the Stars and America’s Funniest Home Videos. Bergeron, who many of us have met and is a native of this area, said one of the keys to his success was that he did a lot of things and rarely said, “no.” Some programs he did were complete flops. And it was at one of the flops that he met Whoopi Goldberg. They hit it off and when she bought the rights to Hollywood Squares she remembered Bergeron and hired him to host. His big break came because of who he met when he took the extra effort to do a show that flopped.

Every time I think of this Patriot’s victory I will think about how Malcolm Butler’s preparation, talent, and effort allowed him to seize an opportunity and win the day. How can we do the same thing in our worlds?  

February 03, 2015 20:17
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Steve Wood is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Leddy Group and Work Opportunities Unlimited Inc. (WOU). In addition, Steve provides strategic planning and organizational development consulting services to clients.


Prior to joining the company, Steve spent 17 years in the banking industry where he was promoted to Senior Vice President and Senior Commercial Loan Officer.



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