The Company You Keep

I know I’ve got a post about LinkedIn Group changes to get out, but I was replying to a friend and realized I had to get this into a post right now…-)

One of the topics was – are we judged by the company we keep.


And LinkedIn is no different…

The poor performer

Everyone’s got a story about working with an individual that just didn’t go well.  They didn’t have the skills, work ethic or personality – by the time the project or assignment was over, you were glad to be rid of them.

So you chalk it up to a learning experience, try to get what you can out of it, and move on.

And then they ask you to connect on LinkedIn…

Awkward to say no

Yes, it is, and LinkedIn doesn’t make it any easier.  Your responses are accept, archive or say you don’t know them.

There’s no “I know them, but choose not to connect at this time” – which is really what you’d like to do.

I do not recommend saying that you don’t know them – because you do.

Worse to say yes

So here’s a tough situation – let’s say you say yes to them because you don’t know how to say no.  And then a month later this individual is asking you to introduce them to someone else you connect with, perhaps a VIP.

What are you going to do then?

There’s no easy out, so avoid it by not connecting in the first place.

Avoidance might be best

The best of the available alternatives is to ignore the request, and if you truly would never accept that invitation, “archive” it to get it out of your sight on the system.  You haven’t let them in, and you haven’t insulted them with the “I don’t know” response.

And if they corner you at some in-person networking event and ask about it, you can offer that it must have missed your attention…

Now if the other party doesn’t get the hint you might still be placed in an awkward position, but you’ve tried to handle it in the most graceful way possible haven’t you?

Connection rules

It’s not that you need to worry so much about how the other person feels – I want you to feel good about your LinkedIn experience.  If you have a well defined set of rules for connecting, you can internally justify your connections and remain satisfied with your standards.

If you start questioning yourself (and your connection standards), I’m afraid you’ll think less of the system and will turn to it less often.

And that wouldn’t move you forward.

To your continued success – and using LinkedIn to help you achieve it,



  1. I once got an invitation to connect from someone I didn’t know. I scratched my head for ages wondering if in fact I did know them (and had somehow forgotten) but came up blank. I didn’t know them and declined. That didn’t stop them sending me an email via LI with their resume, asking me to introduce them to any hiring managers for a job.

    Not wanting to be rude i replied and said they should apply for jobs via the public job board (they’d obviously seen my work, position and connections etc). Instead, they sent another email giving me more background and telling me they were looking for a job and a referral in XX department!.. Anyway, this time I was more blunt. I said I would not refer them because I didn’t know who they were and I never refer people I don’t know… I think they got the message. That, or they went to bother someone else.

  2. What ever happened to good old-fashioned HONESTY??? Letting someone know where they stand helps both of you grow from the experience. Treat it like a performance appraisal… the under-performer should welcome the feedback if they are truly a professional. And you will learn more about yourself and why the person was drawn to you in the first place. I’ve never been a fan of avoiding confrontation. Meet it head on and move on. Let them know honestly why you are not willing to accept their invitation. It will all be forgotten and/or appreciated sooner that way.

  3. J,

    I appreciate the comment – and there are people that you should be honest with. You bring up a great class of individuals – people whose performance you are entrusted to appraise because they work for you, with you, or lead you. Not only do you need to build and maintain a relationship with these people, your life will be a whole lot better if you all help each other.

    In general though, the person that you’re not willing to accept as a connection is more likely an acquaintance.

    And how much do you owe this individual?

    And what if they react badly?

    One thing I’ve picked up on is that other people, especially people with whom I don’t have a great relationship with, are not necessarily open to this sort of exchange.

    And so – I reserve my attempts at teaching for those that express an interest. It’s just not effective trying to teach people that don’t think they need to learn anything;-)

    The fact that LinkedIn does not have a response of “I know this person, but choose not to connect at this time” means that we are shoe-horned into trying to make the choices available work.

    It also happens that I’m asked this most often by people who would like to avoid confrontation;-)

    Thanks for commenting!

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