Marc Effron, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

Marc Effron, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

As I finished my presentation at recent conference, a man ran onto the stage.  He shouted that he disagreed with everything I had said and that he had posted a blog on the same subject that everyone should read.  He then threw a fistful of business cards into the audience and told them to visit his website.

Later that day, as I consulted with a client in their open plan offices, someone walked by and overheard the conversation.  They interrupted us to explain that we misunderstood the true cause of the problem and offered, ad nausaem, their own view of how to solve this particular business issue.

Shortly after that conversation, another manager stood up in his cubicle behind us. He stated that he supported the solutions I had proposed and that he was a long time admirer of my writing.  He ended the conversation by smiling broadly.

It would’ve been an absolutely terrifying day if any of those events had actually happened.  They didn’t. So why are these exact same interactions both accepted and enabled online? From the Harvard Business Review blog to any HR website, we allow behavior that, if demonstrated in person, would likely get you punched in the face. I have certainly engaged in similar behavior online but realized over the last Christmas holiday how ridiculous it was to comment on anyone else’s thoughts.

A comment is a parasite that lives off the author’s original idea. If positive, it serves no purpose other than to aggrandize the author. If negative, it underscores that the individual commenting was either too intellectually or physically lazy to find an legitimate outlet for their idea.

I don’t doubt the positive intentions of most commenters.  Perhaps they believe that their argument is so persuasive that it will change the author’s mind, enlighten her or prevent impressionable others from being led astray.  In reality, the author likely did not write her blog or article with so little conviction that your snide, earnest or verbose comment will shift their views. If you genuinely believe that the author’s submission may harm others, then you owe your potential readers deeper thinking than your four sentence ad-hominem.

At the bottom of the commenting food chain is the self-marketer.  This individual is under the delusion that a) those who read the original article are interested in hearing other randomly offered points of view on that topic, and/or b) that there is business development value in referring others to their website in this way. I would suggest that both delusions are exactly that.

Create, don’t evaluate

So here’s what I’ve chosen to do and what I advise others in our field to do. I have stopped commenting on anyone’s posts or articles – positively or negatively.  I decided that if I had something to say about a topic, I would say it through original writings, not parasitic ones.  I’ve repurposed the time I would have spent commenting into writing and publishing original pieces.

There are plenty of outlets that we can use to originate our ideas – our own blogs, blogs sponsored by others or writing and distributing original articles to your contact list.  I even recently started an entire magazine to encourage more high quality, original dialogue on talent issues. We certainly don’t suffer from such an abundance of ideas in the human resource field that your adding an original contribution will go unnoticed.

We need far more offerings of original thought then we do evaluative comments about what others think.  I encourage you to join with me and when faced with an idea with which you disagree, back away from the keyboard and simply say ”no comment.”

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