The Crying CEO

You may not recognize the name Braden Wallake or the company HyperSocial, but if you’ve logged into LinkedIn in the past two weeks, you’ve likely stumbled upon the term ‘The Crying CEO’. Long story short, Wallake had to let go of some of his employees. He shared his experience via a LinkedIn post and added a crying selfie for extra effect. Few other facts, he also took a pay cut and on a separate thread asked employees who had been laid off to comment/share resumes if they felt comfortable, so recruiters could find them.

His LinkedIn post faced a major backlash. Last I checked, it had 10,501 comments, 1079 shares and 56,385 reactions and counting; almost all of them telling him he’s probably the worst CEO ever. Of course, some people commented in support, including ex-employees who found jobs, but those in support were a tiny majority. I don’t know which side you fall but I cringed the first time I read the post and after a while, the LinkedIn comments began getting depressing. It surprised me to find Wallake replying to most comments and continuing to post despite the steady stream of haters turning up with increasing fury. 

Over the past week, I’ve debated if this incident is worth writing about. Seeing people make mistakes and haters flock is kind of the new normal. I wrote 500 words, deleted them and wrote them back again. The reason I decided to do this anyway is that I spent time introspecting why I found the post cringeworthy but not cringe worthy enough to shower hate in the comments section.

The result is this post on why I don’t think you should shame Wallake. Don’t get me wrong; as his HR/ PR person, I would have advised him to rethink the post but CEOs have a way of doing what they want to do. 

Blame LinkedIn, not Wallake: When LinkedIn first allowed anyone and everyone to write long form posts, I’d protested. Years later, my feed is full of photographs of people getting married, engaged, having a child and endless life events that in one way or the other impacted who they are at work. I no longer look to LinkedIn for great content. It’s reduced itself to yet another social media platform under the guise of professionalism and Wallake’s post is not a far cry from the other nonsense we see on the platform. There is still value in LinkedIn, it’s just harder to find thanks to their algorithm. 

Any attention is good attention: especially if it’s a social company. The company still exists and is selling services. Prior to the post, a tiny cross section of the world knew the CEO or the company. Now he’s famous! And while it definitely isn’t good for his mental health, it’s likely helping his company, the current and ex-employees.

He’s 32! Lastly, how many of us are 32-year-old CEOs? I may have some idea on how to run a company but will surely make mistakes that may end up being worse than a poorly written LinkedIn post. Also, as I type this, Wallake probably knows how the LinkedIn algorithm works. He started with a single line paragraph, made it long enough to work for the algorithm and posted a selfie–he most definitely knew that the post was going to go viral. Maybe he underestimated the backlash, but look, tomorrow there’ll be another story. The true test of the impact of the post will be on brand name recognition, increased orders and how well the company rode these 60 seconds of fame.

For now, let’s move on to other topics and if you are discussing this one, remember he hasn’t committed a crime. Yet. Cut him some slack. After all, we’ve all done some cringe worthy stuff at 32. And if you’re not 32 yet, know that you will. 

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