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My Controversial Take on the LinkedIn Crying CEO

by | Aug 15, 2022 | Writing

Unless you’re a LinkedIn groupie like me, you probably missed this.

A post on LinkedIn blew up with an image of a CEO of a social media agency crying. I know what you’re thinking: “He runs a social media company and this was a performance.”

I don’t think it was. I think he was trying to do what so few men are willing to do on social media.

Let’s dig in deeper because this situation has killer lessons you can use.

The short story of the crying CEO

Braden Wallake posted a story on LinkedIn right after he and his partner laid off two employees. He blames himself for a bad product decision that forced him to downsize his team.

Within minutes the LinkedIn community became divided. Most seemed to applaud his decision to display such vulnerability. A small few who got a huge amount of attention began posting fake selfies of them crying.

Braden got accused of using the layoffs post as a way to boost his reputation. They said he was selfish.

He stoked the fire by responding to his critics. One of the laid-off employees posted their own version of the story that complimented Braden.

Some said the post was designed to capture attention. Or he did it because he runs a social media agency and knew it would blow up.

I doubt it.

If you read his comments he seems genuine. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and say he did it for engagement. But most of the trolls have no clue and are just looking to create memes.

A similar situation happened to me

A few years ago I got fired from my job.

I was embarrassed. I walked out of the office crying my eyes out. People thought I was some social media hero, yet I couldn’t hold down a job working at a social media agency.

A while after it happened, I decided to post the story on LinkedIn to help others who face a similar situation.

Just like Braden I copped some of the same abuse.

While it can look like these stories get shared for likes and comments, that wasn’t the case for me. I don’t give a damn about that because it’s a fake vanity metric.

Some of us are storytellers. We want to inspire. Nothing wrong with that.

Stories are how humanity evolves.

The people who lay people off are forgotten about

That’s who Braden gave a voice to.

I just want people to see, that not every CEO out there is cold-hearted and doesn’t care when he/she has to lay people off.

During a time when layoffs are at an all-time high, Braden gave a voice to a taboo topic I never see get spoken about.

In my mid-20s I had to lay off a few employees that worked at my startup. Just like Braden, I felt incredibly emotional after it and cried in private. I didn’t want anyone to see me crying because I thought it made me look weak.

It’s hard to be the one laid off. It’s hard to do the laying off too.

Thankfully Braden showed that side of the story.

People are afraid of vulnerability

That’s what this all boils down to.

A small segment of LinkedIn got upset with Braden because he tried to do what most men won’t, and be vulnerable.

He put himself on the line to be useful.

As someone who’s done the same many times, I feel his pain. Why the heck are we so afraid of vulnerability?

People called the crying picture “peak cringe.”

I disagree.

We’re at the peak of showing next-to-no emotion. We learned that in the pandemic. People died and got sick and we still wouldn’t get a jab or wear a mask. If it’s not happening to us then, too often, we don’t give a damn.

Meme culture means it’s better to turn vulnerability into a meme than pay attention, and dare I say, learn from what it can teach us.

Some call what Braden did “oversharing.”

Well, what do you think Hollywood is? Stupid amounts of time get spent following the lives of celebrities. We have a workforce of paparazzi that get paid to share their personal and vulnerable moments with the entire world.

Does that stop us from watching Hollywood movies? Nope.

It’s only oversharing if it’s done for cringy social media engagement. If you read Braden’s comments, it’s clear he didn’t cry on LinkedIn for his own benefit.

Any human with a heart can see that.

This is the real enemy you should be outraged by

Justin Welsh on LinkedIn nailed the real issue with the crying CEO.

A group of crazies took mocking selfies, blasted Braden in the comments, and went to his personal Instagram account to make fun of him.

They did this to humiliate him.

It’s bad enough we’re in a recession and he had to see people he cared about lose their jobs. But these knobheads thought they could make a meme out of it and get some entertainment from it.

We’ve all done and said stupid things. It’s never okay to humiliate someone who is doing the best they can. Maybe he did make a mistake by posting the crying selfie. Or maybe he wouldn’t change a thing.

Images of people crying on LinkedIn could become exhausting. As Justin said, though, allowing trolling to become the norm is an even bigger problem.

What this all means for you

It’s okay to be vulnerable online.

What’s missed in this crying CEO story is that 95% of people appreciated the post and were kind to Braden. The message he wanted to share has no doubt helped those who will have to lay off people in the coming months.

Don’t let this story stop you from using social media. There will always be haters who want to bring you down. There will always be cowards who think it’s okay to humiliate others for their amusement.

But those weak people go nowhere in life.

Imagine using your public LinkedIn account to troll and humiliate others while your colleagues, customers, boss, and employer watch. LOL.

That’s how you destroy your career. Don’t do it, it’s a trap.

Call me old fashioned, but I still think you can get far in life by just being ridiculously kind.

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