How to behave like a professional: 3 easy steps

Myra McEntire wrote a blog post decrying Colleen Lindsay's decision to make public her correspondence with an abusive and insulting nitwit. I should note that Myra very carefully did not name any names, provide links, etc., but spoke in general terms about what to do when a nitwit comes calling. Personally, I think the best thing to do with a nitwit is ignore them.

Colleen, however, named the individual, encouraged her hundreds (perhaps thousands) of blog readers and her 17,903 Twitter followers to mock this person, write snarky poems about him, etc. I was aware of Colleen's blog post because it was linked in an RT of an RT. I can only guess how far those RTs spread.

In response to Myra, Colleen self-identified as the person being discussed, which is why I feel comfortable naming names. Colleen responded, in part:
"I treat everyone with the utmost professionalism and respect. Up until the moment that they no longer extend me the same courtesy."
Colleen was the guiding force behind #queryfail. If you don't know what that was, take a Google moment and form your own opinion as to the professionalism and respect of that episode.

What is most notable in Colleen's comment is the part where she denies being in a position of power, since she works evening and weekends and doesn't make a lot of money as an agent. Specifically, in this case:
I am *particularly* not in a position of power over [xxxxxxxx xxxxxxx] as an agent because I had already rejected him (on the basis of his query alone) before he chose to attack me.

And make no mistake - letters like the ones he sent me *are* an attack. It was the same as if he had walked into our offices and started shouting at me to my face.

When someone attacks me? I fight back. Period.
If she had ignored him, or written a nasty note back, or shouted in his face, that would have been fighting back. Even simply posting the correspondence on your blog and linking in your Twitter feed, with its 17,903 readers (and perhaps hundreds of thousands of 2nd order readers), would have been ugly but perhaps still professional.

Launching a vastly disproportionate counter-attack, recruiting those many thousands of people to help you, is irresponsible.


How to behave like a professional: 3 easy steps

1. To the very best of their ability, professionals act like professionals all the time. However funny or clever or satisfying it might be to act like a snarky newbie, save yourself the hassle and don't. This is true in an ephemeral, impulsive environment like Twitter or in something that requires more effort like a blog.

2. Your reputation as a professional will be built up on your 1000 best days, and will be ruined on your 10 worst days. If you are having a bad day, the kind where you might say something damaging or insulting, try not saying anything at all. Turn off the computer and go do some work, or talk a walk or go to a movie.

3. Remember: notoriety is built on attention; reputation is built on respect. If all you have is notoriety, people will want to watch you for your amusing or outrageous antics, but they won't want to work with you. They'll want to work with a professional instead.

Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. Meh. He brought it on himself. So did she. And so have you, to an extent.

    Expressing an opinion on the Internet? Madness. No good will come of it.

  2. Oh, I should say... in my OPINION.

  3. I know, I should have just ignored the whole thing. All of this happened last week, and I successfully ignored it at the time. Some of the follow-up things made it hard enough to stomach that I felt it necessary to spew a bit.



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