This is not to say it is terrible if some of your recommendations are two way. It probably would be a bad idea to refuse to provide a reference someone requested if you otherwise would be willing to offer one.
So, what can you do to be sure not all of your references are swaps? How can you handle if people want you to recommend them?
When someone responds to you request for a recommendation with their own request, consider saying:
“I’m so flattered you’d like a recommendation for me. However, I’ve read it’s not a good idea to have all two-way recommendations on LinkedIn, because people may discount their value. I know this perception could reflect on both of us. However, I am happy to do other things to help you with your professional networking. In fact, if you are interested, I would love to make an introduction to __________, a colleague I admire and who you would probably also enjoy meeting.
If that isn’t comfortable, keep in mind:
You don’t need to showcase or link to the people you recommend on your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn gives you the option to display your endorsement or not. If you don’t post it on your profile, it is a little harder for people to notice that you have two-way recommendations.
Bottom line: all career advice is “advisory!” Make an informed decision and do the right thing for you and your colleagues when the situation arises.
Have you dealt with this situation? What did you do?