I said this out loud because I could not believe my eyes. A peer had sent me an email, with the lead in I thought you should see this but you didnt get it from me. This was a substantial hint that what followed wouldnt be pleasant reading. Also setting me on alert, I noticed the subject stated Totally Unfair Review.
One of my team members -- well call him Jimmy -- had skewered me in an email to a co-worker. The email told a story about how I had written a quarterly review about Jimmy without any input from him. Jimmy was telling tales because this simply was not the truth. I had asked him for his input and he had ignored my request.
Now the fact that he was not happy with the review was not surprising, because Jimmy had missed a project deadline and had misled the team to think he was on target. That he had falsely stated he had no input is what ate at me. Turns out the co-worker didnt care for Jimmy and therefore shared the email with his manager. (Note as I have stated in past articles: dont put anything in an email you dont want shared, even to so-called confidants).
This whole episode got me thinking. What if the opinion of Jimmy was conveyed in a public forum? Not that Jimmy would have put his name to it, but even anonymously, with MY NAME attached to it. If you think it wouldnt matter because no one would probably read it, think again.
The online world is changing the way feedback is made available. It used to be if you had a bad experience with something, it was between you and that person or business. Not today. If teenagers are experiencing cyber-rumor-mongering on sites like Facebook and MySpace, why is it not conceivable for this to happen in the business world, especially with technology savvy IT workers?
Consider sites like LinkedIn where its mostly professionals who put up their experience for all to see. It is typical on these sites for your connections to write a recommendation based on their experience working with you, which is attached to your online profile.
What if the tables were turned and former co-workers could anonymously post negative reviews about their experiences with you? At least with the recommendations, you have the control to reject them. Imagine if you couldnt even provide a rebuttal?
Still think this isnt an imminent possibility?
Check out the site TheFunded. Not quite what we are talking about here, but bear with me because I think it is a relevant example. This Web site was created by the CEO of an early stage technology company who has had multiple experiences with venture capital firms, not all of them good experiences. This CEO anonymously created the site to allow other tech startup entrepreneurs to post their experiences, both good and bad, with venture capitalists (VCs).
Think about this for a minute. VCs typically reject 95 percent of the entrepreneurs they meet with thats the nature of their business. Imagine how many entrepreneurs are left with a bad taste in their mouth! But that isnt the point. The majority of the comments I have read arent just glad-handed personal attacks but instead very thoughtful insights on how an entrepreneur felt they were treated by the VC firm, whether they ended up being funded by them or not.