Professional Suicide

The internet is a great thing, but it comes with many dangers, and too often we've heard of and read about professionals committing what amounts to professional suicide online. We aren't just referring to professionals in our line of work, but in any other. 

This can come in a variety of shapes and forms, including leaking confidential information, writing mean things about clients, colleagues, and vendors, spreading rumors, etc. It can seem very easy to vent on Twitter, Facebook, listservs, LinkedIn groups or any other public (or even protected) forum, but our short piece of advice here is: don't do it. Resist the temptation to make anything public that you might regret later. We don't want to scare you at all, but here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to netiquette. Remember that your reputation is one of the only things you have. Let's delve into some more specifics here:

  • It is completely normal to be mad/annoyed/incredibly ticked off once in a while. It happens to us, too. However, as tempting as it may be, the internet is not the place to air your grievances, especially if you are going to be naming names. There are, as always, no black and white rules, but while we think it's of course completely acceptable to tweet that you are exhausted and not having a great day, we'd say it's not acceptable to say you are exhausted because annoying client XYZ won't stop bombarding you with e-mails. Without clients, you have nothing, so be careful what you say about them. We generally don't ever have anything negative to say about our lovely clients, but if and when we do, we discuss this in person with each other or our inside circle.
  • Use the newspaper rule. If it could potentially make you unhappy to see anything you are about to type in next morning's newspaper, then don't do it. If you hesitate about whether you should post something, don't do it.
  • Think twice before sending an angry e-mail. Invasion of privacy and computer hacking issues aside, e-mail can be viewed as a somewhat private form of communication. However, e-mails can be forwarded and shared, and while it's tempting to fire off a snarky response to an e-mail, we suggest thinking twice before hitting the send button. Better yet: have someone you trust read your e-mail to make sure it's acceptable. While it's entirely possible that the person who sent you the e-mail is rude and unreasonable, you don't need to respond the same way. Being nice is always better.
  • Stay away from gossip. We don't see any good reason to gossip about others. Nothing good ever comes out of talking badly about others. A good rule would be: if you don't have anything good to say about someone, just be quiet and try to surround yourself with positive people.
  • The beauty and danger of listservs. We truly love the listservs of the many professional associations we belong to, but they can also be a minefield. E-mail certainly isn't the best form of communication, especially when there's conflict, so we avoid getting into any sort of argument via e-mail. These lists are meant to be a positive place to exchange ideas and to solve linguistic puzzles, and everyone tends to be very, very helpful. However, once in a while 1,000+ people have to witness a personal spat between two members, and that's not a great idea. There's never any reason to air any grievances on a forum that thousands of people can read. Our tip: if you have a dispute with a colleague, take him or her to coffee and talk about it privately. If you don't live in the same city, set up a phone call. It's sad to see that some users have to get banned from listservs because they cannot stick to the netiquette rules, and unfortunately, others remember very clearly who they are.
  • Go for a walk. Again, we all get angry and annoyed. Customers and even colleagues can be unreasonable and treat you poorly, which is a fact of life. Before you make your next move, clear your head, go for a walk and ask yourself: "Will this matter a year from now?" It probably won't. Pet a friendly dog while you are out on that walk and remind yourself that no matter how tough business can be, working for yourself is truly marvelous.
What about you, dear colleagues? Do you have any other recommendations on this important topic? What's the behavior that should be avoided? We look forward to your comments.


Kathy Paredes on September 19, 2014 at 10:00 AM said...

A lot of people get angry and that's ok. It's all part of life, but if they think getting angry and taking it out on another person doing business for them is going to expedite things, they are completely wrong.

I strongly agree with the going for a walk part, nothing lets you calm down and collect your professionalism more than getting away from everything and letting you come back with a fresh outlook.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on September 21, 2014 at 11:10 PM said...

@Kathy: Thanks for reading and for commenting! Yes, a walk always helps clear the mind, but there are always other options, too. Perhaps doing some shadow boxing or punching a pillow also works for some. It doesn't really matter what you do as long as you come back with a fresh outlook, as you so correctly point out. Thanks for your thoughtful contribution!

Unknown on September 22, 2014 at 12:33 PM said...

I always follow the rule about sending angry emails. Never reply immediately if it made your blood boil. Leave it for a couple of hours or a day or two if it's not an urgent matter. I may write it but then I send it to my colleague to have a look (and a lot of the things get crossed out). It works like a charm.

Max said...

There's a little mistake in paragraph 5: 'While it's entirely person that the person..."

While it's not acceptable to vent one's anger online or to be rude in e-mails directed at customers, there are sometimes situations where we do need to be firm (though polite) and respectfully state that such or such behaviour on the client's part actually is detrimental our relationship.

I'm currently halfway through your book The Entrepreunarial Linguist and it contains a wealth of information!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on September 22, 2014 at 11:00 PM said...

@Alina: Thanks for commenting, and yes, letting an angry e-mail sit for a few hours is a great idea indeed. Love the strategy about sending the message to a trusted colleague so he/she can edit it.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on September 22, 2014 at 11:02 PM said...

@Max: Thanks for letting us know about this error -- it has now been fixed. We really appreciate it. You bring up a good point here: of course one has to be firm with customers at times and stand up for his/her interests; no doubt. Being polite is key, as you state. Sometimes that's a though balance to strike.

We are delighted to hear that you are enjoying our book -- it's a labor of love.

Skrivanek Group on October 4, 2014 at 6:13 PM said...

Great tips ladies. So very easy to get angry and let it out online. Guilty by association, right? Walking away is a great technique, use it online or anywhere really. We always say things that we shouldn't when we're upset, no question about it. Learning what to do and practicing will help it become a natural reaction.

"Hope all is well."

Christoph N. on October 12, 2014 at 8:41 PM said...

I do not send angry e-mails. But what is happen if you receive one? And in my case is what not my fault – I didn’t had something to do with it. I answered nice to the mail, but I got another angry e-mail back and the writer called me a liar. I will send now the link to this article to her… :D

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on October 13, 2014 at 9:49 AM said...

@Cristoph: Thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, there will be angry e-mails in every professional's life, and many of them you get even though it's not your fault. Unfortunately, the only behavior you can control is your own, so you just have to be professional and calm, even if the other person is not. We know this can be quite a challenge at times!

Unknown on October 13, 2014 at 10:08 AM said...

Christoph has just reminded me of an incident of this type.

I sent an email to someone asking for references for a translator (whom we always encourage to ask for the referees' permission before passing out details, of course). The reply we received cannot be reproduced without using grawlix. That was the rudest email we've ever received. I was appalled.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on October 15, 2014 at 12:48 PM said...

@Alina: Thanks for sharing. Wow, that sure sounds like a terribly rude email you received there. How strange, though, right? The translator him/herself provided the person's contact information, true? Sounds like the potential reference was not happy at all with the translator -- was that the message, in a nutshell? In that case, it's truly amazing that the translator misjudges his/her relationship with the potential reference that he/she would list the person, which seems to have backfired. But in either case, there's no reason for the reference person to be rude to you -- sorry to hear that happened!

Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

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