Many social media users love to criticize and complain, and last week much of that negative attention was focused on “crybaby CEO” Braden Wallake of HyperSocial. Wallake made headlines with a distressed post, accompanied by a crying selfie after his company had to lay off three employees.
The post went viral, along with a series of angry comments, most of which criticized Wallake for making everything about himself and his raw emotions, rather than his newly unemployed employees and the emotions they must be feeling. “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 now have no income.”
Let’s be realistic about this. Other executives have posted in the past how sorry they are for firing people. This one just went viral because of that selfie. It’s just not the kind of thing people are likely to post on LinkedIn, which is generally used as a platform for people to promote their own expertise or professionalism. Real emotions are a rarity, and I think maybe they shouldn’t be.
Here is more of what I think is wrong with most of the criticism that has been thrown in Wallake’s direction.
1. You are being punished for your honesty.
Experts warn that one of theThe biggest dangers of social media is that people make themselves seem more successful, more attractive, and happier in their posts than in real life. They are effectively retouching their lives and careers in the same way that models and actors retouch their images before posting them 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 airbrushing more prevalent than on LinkedIn, which is the professional face we present to the world. It’s so full of self-aggrandizing posts that the Twitter account @BestofLinkedIn was created just to make fun of them. And while some have questioned whether Wallake was really upset about the firings, to most observers, myself included, his sadness seems genuine enough. Friends, if we want social networks to be less fake and insincere, let’s not criticize people when they show their true feelings.
2. Most critics are showing their own ignorance.
“You didn’t cut your own salary. Could you have done other things instead of crying and posting online?” Yahoo Finance anchor Rachelle Akuffo asked in a video report on the post. A large, well-funded news organization like Yahoo really should do better at research and fact-checking because, in fact, Wallake says he reduced his own salary to $0 in light of HyperSocial’s financial troubles.
Many felt that instead of airing his own feelings about the layoffs, he should have posted about the wonderful employees he had to lay off, letting people know about their skills and the great job they’ve done in helping them find new jobs. Wallake did that too, although he wisely waited to ask their permission before posting about them.
3. The post actually did some good.
Many, many people on social media complained that Wallake didn’t care enough about the people he let go. But do the critics themselves care about those people? If so, you might think they would be pleased to see the effect the post has had.
Because it went viral, it made Wallake, for the moment, one of the most high-profile executives in America. He used that notoriety to do what many critics asked him to do. He created a post about Noah Smith, one of the employees he had fired, describing Smith in glowing terms as a person and as an employee. He informed readers of what skills Smith has and what kind of jobs he is looking for.
It worked. Today, Wallake posted an image of Smith’s smartphone showing a long list of LinkedIn messages, many of which appear to contain job openings. Wallake himself also received a large number of messages, many of which suggested that he should die. Still, he writes, seeing all the messages to Smith “makes every nasty comment worth it.”
As for Smith, who was fired and then suddenly found himself in the spotlight, he has always defended Wallake and the CEO job in tears. And he writes, “For those who want to hire me, I’m only interested in working for people like Braden Wallake.” How many bosses do you know whose employees would say the same thing?