Call me old-fashioned, but just because so many of us are interacting from behind a screen doesn’t mean that the rules of etiquette and common courtesy have been suspended.

In case you didn’t get the memo on the importance of professional courtesy in an on-line world, this is it.

I am increasingly fascinated and horrified by the way people conduct themselves through sites like Linkedin and for networking introductions provided via e-mail.

I’ve compared notes with a number of my colleagues and have found that I’m not alone with my observations and annoyances.

Invitations to Connect on Linkedin:

Let’s tackle Linkedin first. This popular and powerful business networking tool is an ideal way to catch up with colleagues from firms long-ago as well as to facilitate introductions for these seeking to connect. I like it…it merits a few minutes a day of maintenance, it is a good resource for learning something about people you might be meeting or interviewing with, and the forums and discussion groups have some merit for like-minded professionals.

What irks my about people’s behavior on LI is the way some people seek to reconnect. I won’t name names, but more than a few colleagues from a life two decades ago have found me on Linkedin and sent along the following boilerplate message:

“So and So has identified you as someone they trust and would like to add you to their network.”

That’s it. No “Hello!” no “How are you?” or even a  “Hey, great to see that you are still breathing.” Heck, an ”I didn’t like you 20 years ago, but now that it looks like you can help me, I want to be your friend,” message would be better than nothing.  At least it is personal and honest.

Most people offer nothing. Silence. Nada. Zero. Zip.

What’s wrong with you people?!

Can you imagine bumping into a colleague on the street after many, many years and not offering a smile, a polite greeting and some questions about what they are up to? I can’t.

Proper Etiquette: Use the message function of Linkedin and send a polite greeting. After the connection is made, exchange notes and engage. The goal is to create quality connections and to find ways to support each other should the occasion arise. Start engaging…not just linking.


I love this one and again, my colleagues report the same. Someone goes to the trouble of sending a nice note out suggesting that two people might share interests and might benefit from connecting, and then one or both parties ignore the introduction.

I make it a habit to always send a nice greeting to the person that I was introduced to and offer my contact information and encouragement for a chance to connect via a brief phone call. It is amazing how many people never respond.

Was it my courtesy?  My enthusiasm for meeting great new people?

The lack of response speaks volumes about the person.

Proper Etiquette: Always, always, always take the next step after an e-introduction. Be the better person and extend the opportunity to connect. You may decide after 60 seconds of phone time that there is no fit.  Or better yet, you may find a valuable new relationship, a kindred spirit on a professional topic of interest or someone who turns into a valuable network partner.

If you don’t follow-up, all that you tell everyone is that you are a jerk.

The Bottom-Line on this Rant for Now:

We all have a remarkable number of ways to interact and while we are all busy, YOU are never too busy that skimping on courtesy is acceptable. Bring Etiquette Back!