How to give me a negative reference on LinkedIn


By: Brooke Allen (you will find my LinkedIn profile here.)

Be aware that on LinkedIn you cannot give me a negative reference unless I approve it.

This is bad news because if it is impossible for you to say something negative, then the positive things I might allow you to say must be taken with a grain of salt.

I want you to give me a fair and balanced reference so others can have an accurate picture of who I am, and I want you to let me know what I’m doing wrong and how I can improve.

But before you give me a negative reference let us establish a few ground rules. Let’s begin with:

Motivation – Why do you want to say what you do? Why do I want to hear it?

Familiarity – How well do you know me and my work?

Rationality – Are you basing your statements on facts and valid reasoning?

Let’s analyze each in more detail…


Why am I motivated to hear negative feedback? There are three big things that I care about. They are:

Success – I define this as progress toward a worthy goal. To be effective I must be able to marshal resources and motivate others. Although having others attest to my strengths might motivate others to help me they should also have a realistic understanding of my weaknesses so there are no nasty surprises later.

Self-Improvement – I am a flawed human but I aspire to be better than I am. In many ways I wish to improve myself. On the other hand, I’ve resigned myself to many of my flaws and hope others will either forgive me those flaws or choose to not associate themselves with me.

Truth – If we cannot be honest it is difficult to uncover facts and build a relationship of trust. By giving me an honest review you will help others understand my strengths and prepare for my flaws (or choose to avoid me if that is in their best interests).

Why are you motivated to criticize me? Only you can answer this question; I can only guess. Perhaps you want to:

Help me – Maybe you want to help me succeed or become a better person.

Help yourself – Or maybe you want me to change so as to be more palatable to you whether it helps me succeed or become a better person or not.

As you might expect, your motivations are important to how I respond to your criticism. I doubt that you would feel any different.


How well do you know me? Perhaps you:

Know me as a person – If you have personal experience of me then there are many ways your criticism could be well founded. But if you don’t know me then how can you criticize my character?

Know my work – You don’t need to know me to criticize my work. I encourage people to evaluate what I say and call out my errors and offer alternative viewpoints.

Don’t know me or my work – In this case, how could anything you have to say carry meaning?


Does your criticism make sense? Are you:

In command of the facts – Basing an argument on falsehoods is never a good idea.

Thinking clearly – Even if you begin with the truth your reasoning can still be faulty.



It is useful for me to think of people who give me negative feedback as falling into one of four categories:

ALLIES – These are people who know me and let me know how I can improve myself. They base their case on facts and valid reasoning and, as a courtesy, they often start with private correspondence before criticizing me in public.

CRITICS – These are people who do not know me personally but they want to help me improve my work or present an opposing viewpoint. It is best for them to place their criticism where the work resides, not in a personal reference for me. Real critics are usually happy to engage in a dialogue and conduct themselves respectfully.

FRENEMIES – These are people who know me personally and have a complaint. Often they want to disparage me in public even as they claim to be my friend, and – as you can imagine – I don’t appreciate this. However, they may have a valid complaint about some irritating part of my personality and if there is merit I’ll gladly update the DISCLOSURE page on my website so as to warn others (see:

HATERS – Some people have an axe to grind and don’t really want to engage with me or my work. They simply want to say what they want in a place other people hang out because people aren’t paying attention to them where they are. They might be indistinguishable from critics at first but if I try to engage in a dialogue and they do not treat me with respect but come back with more hate, then I’ll try my best to ignore them.


Before you decide to say something negative about me please consider which of these people you are.

If you are an ally then please write to me directly and let me know how I can improve. You don’t need to butter me up first; just tell me what I’m doing wrong. If you want to give me an honest reference in public then I encourage you to send me something that describes me truthfully as you see me – both the good and the bad.

If you are a critic then please place your criticism next to the work you are criticizing. Either add comments to the piece, or if that is not possible, then write your rebuttal somewhere else and send me a link and I’ll add it to the bottom of my publication if that is something I can do.

If you are a frenemy then let me know how I went from becoming your friend to your enemy. Either let me know what I can do to repair our relationship, or if it is beyond repair, let me know how I might improve so as to be more palatable to others. At a minimum, tell me how I can update my disclosure statement so others can be forewarned.

If you are a hater then please find your own forum for expressing your opinions and leave me alone.


I encourage you to comment on my work wherever you find it, and I encourage you to give me a character reference here on LinkedIn. If you truly know me I’d prefer an honest recommendation rather than a lop-sided one.

If you want me to give you a recommendation let me know if you want me to treat you in the same way or if you only want me to say positive things. I do not have a problem giving honest albeit incomplete references because – let’s face it – not everyone believes as I do.



Author: Brooke Allen

Founder – Viral Virtue, Inc.

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