BRaden Wallake looks at the camera with swollen eyes, tears running down his face. With this picture and a long, emotional text, the CEO of a company from the US state of Ohio recently went viral on Linkedin as the “Crying CEO”. “This is going to be the most vulnerable thing I’ll ever share,” Wallake begins a post in which he reports laying off several employees.
Wallake is head of the Hypersocial agency, which advises on sales and marketing. In February he made a decision that he had stuck to for too long, Wallake writes on Linkedin. This decision has now led to the layoffs.
The answers to Wallake’s contribution are ambivalent. In addition to more than 35,000 positive reactions, Wallake was also asked to exercise restraint in the comments under his post – he is not the one who was fired, why he is crying, asks a user who said that she had just lost her job herself.
The border not found
There is a limit to the public disclosure of business decisions and misjudgments, says Annette Mulkau, Chairwoman of the German Society for Supervision and Coaching (DGSV). Wallake did not find this limit.
“Braden Wallake is in a process similar to dealing with grief that he should have gone through before he shared this post,” says Mulkau, who advises and coaches executives. Instead, he uses LinkedIn for this process. She advises other bosses on alternative ways of processing strong affects and emotions. And she applies for it – after all, that’s her job – supervision and coaching. Anyone who uses Linkedin to announce emotional professional decisions gives the impression that those affected cannot find any other way. But there is, says Mulkau.
It is true that it is right to take public responsibility for one’s own wrong decisions, but that has to be the end of it. Developing a good error culture is important for people in management positions. “If I, as CEO, had the image of not being allowed to make any mistakes, then I couldn’t do my job,” says Mulkau.
Showing the “human” side is trendy
Anyone following management literature knows that leaders are increasingly expected to show a human side. For example, a survey conducted by the Swiss consulting agency Egon Zehnder among more than 900 CEOs around the world showed that executives have recognized that they need to become more approachable and recognize the social aspects of their position.
Supervisor and coach Annette Mulkau says that CEOs are also people and that having emotions is part of it. “Even executives are allowed to cry, but to publish a picture of it is too much of a good thing.”
Wallake’s intention might have been to show himself to be human and a socially competent leader, Mulkau suspects. He could also have hoped for positive feedback on his decision and how it was handled. The trend to present yourself strongly on Linkedin also serves to generate attention, which in turn could lead to numerous economic advantages.
In Wallake’s case, the boss’s post was followed by an equally lengthy post from one of the fired employees, Noah Smith. In the post, Smith shares his impressions and his search for a new job. But Smith makes it clear right away: His new employer should place value on a healthy work-life balance, be family-friendly and approachable – like his previous employer: Braden Wallake.