Women On LinkedIn: Responding To The Unprofessional Message

eharmony immature inappropriate report and block unprofessional Mar 25, 2024
LinkedIn is Not eHarmony

I've had several conversations with women who are LinkedIn clients and connections over the past few years about this topic. It frustrates me that each of us have had an experience with a man on LinkedIn that has given us pause, made us uncomfortable, and even outright enraged us.

No, hold on, let me reword that:

REWORDED: Men have messaged us on LinkedIn with unprofessional comments, requests, and sometimes blatantly inappropriate messages, and we have to determine how - or if - we respond.

I changed this from the passive to the active voice.
This is not something that we are doing. This is something that is being done by directed at us by another person. And it makes us uncomfortable.

I debated publishing this article, but a recent post from a fellow woman on LinkedIn who shared her experience -- and the response from her post -- prompted me to proceed (Yes, she is aware I'm linking to her post and gave me permission to share here).

Well, this and the feedback from a handful of women I've shown a draft of this post to. I know I'm not alone in this frustration.

If I'm not being clear enough - let me put it this way. LinkedIn is not eHarmony, Tinder, OK Cupid, Match or anything in that category.

LinkedIn was created for professional networking. It is not a social site. It is not a place to troll for women.

It's not a place to use a connection request to offer compliments (or worse) based on looks. If you're not aware enough to get that - you should migrate to one of the above-mentioned sites.

Here are just a small sample of inappropriate messages that women in my network have received. None are appropriate for LinkedIn:

  • Let's connect on LinkedIn. You have a pretty smile.
  • Do you like wine?
  • You are beautiful. I would love to meet you for coffee or dinner sometime.
  • Wow you are gorgeous.
  • Hello.
  • You're gorgeous and I don't even care if it's not appropriate to tell you this.
  • Well, to be honest foremost I found you a very attractive woman. I hope I do not disappoint you with this confession. I'm retired and LinkedIn is a hobby.
  • Are you happily married?
  • What kind of "connection" did you want to discuss?

Sure, you might say that telling someone that they have a pretty smile is just a compliment. But if this is your first encounter, it is off-putting.

To put things in context, have you ever complimented a man you've connected with on LinkedIn on his smile?

Would you say the same thing to that women if your wife was standing next to you, or if her husband was standing next to her? Or if she was your new boss, a recruiter, or a potential client?

Probably not.

Sometimes, I read these messages to my husband. I wonder if I'm just being too sensitive.

About 100% of the time, he says, "no he's a creep. Block him."

I replied back to one of these inappropriate men once and asked if he knew my husband, to whom I've been happily married for many years. He awkwardly replied that he may have met him.

When I'm coaching men on how to use LinkedIn, I never have to address the issue of inappropriate messages from women. There are a few who encounter this, but it appears to occur at a much lower rate than the messages women get from men.

To test my theory, ask a female coworker or friend who is actively using LinkedIn if she has ever had to thwart off an inappropriate man on LinkedIn. My guess is you'll be hard pressed to find someone who hasn't had this happen.

So it happens. Now what? Well, we as women can do a few things:

  1. Ignore it.

  2. Report them to LinkedIn, who will research the issue and ban the person from LinkedIn if they are in fact being inappropriate in their use of this professional network. UPDATE: this actually helps. LinkedIn recently published this on their blog. https://engineering.linkedin.com/blog/2020/fighting-harassment Then, block them. A heads up that you can block up to 1,000 people (so I've heard!) and you cannot block them if you are both in the same group (so you'll need to exit the shared group first).

  3. Make this a teachable moment. Reply back and gently tell the man that his message is inappropriate for LinkedIn. Give him some professional etiquette coaching. Tell him that a compliment on your smile can be a bit off putting and not appropriate for LinkedIn.

However, not many women will go with option #3. While already uncomfortable, we don't want to make the situation worse. Some of us are fearful of what the man will do or say in response. Plus, if he doesn't get it by now, will telling him help?

At this point, there is no chance that this person is a reputable professional connection.

If these men are clueless enough to think that we are going to respond to their flirtation or request, they obviously aren't mature enough to handle an adult conversation about crossing the line.

My hope for this blog is that it starts a conversation around professional etiquette in LinkedIn messages and connection requests. And maybe to get suggestions on how (or even IF) we should respond. Perhaps also it will bring to light the fact that a "harmless" compliment on someone's smile is really making that other person uncomfortable and diminishing your ability to build your network.

Oh, and by the way, if you are a guy trolling for women: you should probably be aware that anytime you like or comment on a woman's post and tell her that she is gorgeous, or anytime you like a woman's post on LinkedIn and the posts have a common theme (tight fitting clothing, cleavage, lots of skin showing, etc. etc.), know that THE WORLD CAN SEE YOUR LINKEDIN ACTIVITY.

We can look on your timeline and see every like and every comment.

This means that ANYONE can see your activity: your wife, your boss, that person you're interviewing, or your team members. Even HR. And yes, even women like me.

I have disconnected from some of my network connections because they only seem to comment on posts from beautiful women, and they completely creep me out.

In Closing...

For the powerful, awesome women in my network reading this post: share this blog along in a social media post, or in an email to a friend.

For the wonderful, professional men reading this post who really and truly want to connect with women on LinkedIn for professional purposes: I welcome your invitation to connect and your comments, too. Your suggestions on how we should (or should not) respond to inappropriate messages from men will be greatly appreciated.


Let's connect on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/brendameller

Need help with LinkedIn? Contact me.

I've worked with executives (women and men), women and men in management, women and men in sales, mompreneurs, and more. My LinkedIn training ranges from a "Power Hour"
 coaching session up to LinkedIn team training. I also provide LinkedIn company strategy and coaching services.