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I was thinking about this and was wondering if my behavior is unethical - the information was public, and I didn't think much of doing so at the time.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Apr 10 at 9:23
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    Surprised is different than offended. I'm not even sure if it is clear whether you're apologizing to an offense or to him being surprised. – Nelson Apr 10 at 9:29
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    I'm generally confused as to whether he looked up a colleague and then told another colleague that he looked them up, or that he told the colleague he looked up that he will be starting there... Second seems more plausible, but not clear from the question. – Lukali Apr 10 at 10:26
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    Why does ethics immediately spring to mind? Maybe you'd be better off framing it in terms of basic politeness first? – Lamar Latrell Apr 10 at 11:36
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    As you can tell from all the answers and commentary, opinion is totally mixed on whether reaching out to a future colleague via LinkedIn is appropriate. It's safe to assume that this future colleague is on the other side of the opinion that you (though you didn't detail his actual reaction). The best thing you can do is introduce yourself to him when you see him and explain that you were just enthusiastic about joining the team. – teego1967 Apr 10 at 12:09
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No. Don't apologize.

Had it happen to me, and I've done it myself. If a person doesn't want their profile accessed, they shouldn't make it publicly available. There is nothing wrong with that.

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    Not only is there nothing wrong with it, but LinkedIn essentially exists purely to allow and support professional networking. Checking out the people who work for a potential or future employer is a very common use case of "professional networking" and I would be quite surprised if someone found it unusual. – dwizum Apr 9 at 17:38
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    @Abigail how do you feel when LinkedIn tells you things like "8 people looked at your profile this week"? – mkennedy Apr 9 at 20:30
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    @sf02 Uh, "colleague", not anonymous person. I get people contacting me via LinkedIn to ask questions. Sometimes I know them. It gives them a way to break the ice too by knowing how long you've been at the company, where you previously worked, went to school, etc. What's creepier? Someone states where they learned something about you or when they don't tell you where they learned it? – mkennedy Apr 9 at 20:41
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    @sf02 yes of course it is. – edc65 Apr 9 at 20:51
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    Stronger: this is not just okay; it is expected. It is, indeed, the entire point of the website. OP's colleague is insane. – Lightness Races with Monica Apr 10 at 0:44
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I told my colleague about it and he seemed surprised. Should I apologize?

I suggest you ask him, e.g.

"I noticed you seemed surprised when I said I'd looked you up on LinkedIn. I've been feeling bad about it in case it upset you in any way. *Are you okay about it?"

Note

I have edited the last part of my answer in response to valid comments. I feel that a final question is needed in order to encourage the other person to have their say. I'm open to other suggestions.

As Ister suggests, "I hope you weren't offended" is another good possibility to finish with.

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    I would keep the first phrase but replace the rest with something along lines: "I hope you didn't feel offended". Asking someone outright if you should apologise them sounds a bit awkward to me. With my version if someone confirms being offended it automatically opens a space to apologise. – Ister Apr 10 at 13:28
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    I'll second @Ister Remove the last three words and this is a great answer. – aslum Apr 10 at 13:35
  • @Ister - Yes. I added that because I felt it needed some kind of question at the end. Otherwise it is merely a blank statement and there is nothing to be said in return. I'll edit. – chasly from UK Apr 10 at 15:26
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Other answers are fairly blunt in the “No…” category, but I believe there is subtlety here:

If you feel you need to apologize, then you should apologize…

But don’t feel bad about it.

Yes, if a LinkedIn profile is made public then people can view that profile and then (based on their level of access in LinkedIn) they can see they viewed your profile. All fair.

And yes, you can lock down your LinkedIn profile so you can only allow people you are connected to to view that profile. That is fair.

But at the end of the day there is human etiquette. And if you feel that you might have offended someone by simply looking at their profile, you should apologize.

You should not recommend that they lock down their profile because why should they? Because ultimately if the profile is public, they might have a good reason to do so and not really want to alter their online presence for the needs of one random person they just met.

In general think about public online profiles like mail: You know, I can see my neighbors ordered items from Amazon. And many packages have tracking numbers right on them. There is technically nothing stopping me from making note of that tracking number and then—the next time I saw my neighbor—say something like, “Boy! That Amazon package you just got took a long time to get to you!” I mean, that’s prying and kinda crazy, right?

Ditto with online public profiles.

In the case of your co-worker, if they were stunned by what you did just say something like:

“Well, sorry about that. But since I was starting this job and just wanted to get to know my co-workers. My apologizes if that was an indirect way of going about it.”

The reality is that technical boundaries—such as blocking access to a profile—and human etiquette are two different things.

1

There's no need for an apology.

If someone creates a profile on LinkedIn, then they should expect that people will be looking at it, whether it be potential employers, peers or anyone using the site. I wouldn't even bring it up again, unless it seems like there's some unspoken tension over it.

0

I told him about it and he seemed surprised.

^^ So what??

When I see acquaintances shopping at the same store as me I get surprised too. It doesn't mean that they should apologize.

Stop overthinking and don't make things weird by apologizing. Move on with your life.

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NOTE: reviewing the answer I changed the usage of "creepy" to "weird, strange"

I agree with two points made by participants in answers and comments:

  1. You shouldn't apologize
  2. It's weird, strange

why?

  1. As stated previously, once you open a public profile (in any site, FB, LI, etc) you should be aware that you could be contacted by people you don't know, so it is something expected, thus, I think there is no need for apologizing

  2. I infer from OP's words ("future colleague") that he/she does not even know the OP. So for me is weird, strange to see the 3rd item of this sequence in my timeline:

    • OP has viewed your profile (Ok, it's expected)
    • OP wants to connect (Let see if industry or people in common)
    • OP says "Hi, you don't know me but I will be working with you soon. I will start this date" (weird, strange)

But...

If that was the approach of the OP, it's weird, strange enough for me. I would say something like "mmm, ok congrats".

However, if the message is more like:

"Hi, I am OP, I have been working as XXX and I will be starting soon at THE COMPANY in your department. I saw that you are working there, Could I ask YYYY if you don't mind? I would like to know more about the workplace/tools/procedures/advice etc"

I think that is more professional and I will be eager to help, verifying first that this is true or redirecting to the relevant area (HR, manager) if there are some information concerns.


My point is that I wouldn't be offended or scared, just a bit uncomfortable with someone trying approach me in a non-professional way

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    The OP said they looked the colleague up. How you go from there to sending messages is really not clear to me. – Voo Apr 10 at 9:20
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    Reading publicly available information on the Internet is creepy?! -1 – virolino Apr 10 at 9:24
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    Where did the OP wrote that he said / wrote those things? If you would have said strange or surprising, I might have agreed. But creepy?! – virolino Apr 10 at 9:30
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    Ok, English is not my first language, so maybe "creepy" is a strong word that I am misunderstanding here. I wouldn't use "surprising". I would use strange or weird instead. – gustavovelascoh Apr 10 at 9:34
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    It's not clear from the question, but i thought the OP told the colleague when they first met at the workplace, not preemptively over a messanger service. – StarWeaver Apr 10 at 9:44

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