Help! My Boss Wants To Be My Friend On Facebook

Help! My boss wants to be my my friend on Facebook” was exactly the text message I received from someone close to me early last week.

Career Limiting Move or A Platform To Build A Great Relationship?
This young member of the Gen Y generation recently joined the workforce –and was experiencing the pain as personal and professional lives collide.  While some may laugh at the notion, first understand that Generation Y may share their most intimate of details on Facebook, from what they love and hate, who they love and hate, photos from last Saturday night to where they’re going tonight –it’s more of an online diary.

Don’t scoff at this situation, on this Web Strategy Blog we discuss how corporations can benefit from new technologies (like social) and know that employees will use them –often in the context of the workplace, this is just one instance of a particularly real issue.  What’s at stake?  Building a long term relationship with your boss –or sending the right or wrong message about your ability to be a worker (update: like this one link via William).   We were successfully able to wade through the situation, but first, let’s list out all the options available to you when this situation happens:

Contingency Planning: So Your Boss Wants To Friend You On Facebook

1) Do nothing.  Simply ignore the request and hope it goes away, it sends a message: one of inability to communicate or not follow through.

2) Deny them.  Suggest this isn’t how you want to communicate with them, with a message like “Sorry but Facebook is just for my family and friends” and risk alienating a relationship you could grow.

3) Add them and expose them to your entire life.  Adding one’s boss may be easy as a single click, but exposing them to their steamy private life could be detrimental to one’s career.

4) Redirect to LinkedIn. Suggesting that you want to keep professional relationships professional and they go in LinkedIn is a fine idea.  But snubbing them could be a career limiting move saying you don’t want to be in an engaging relationship –or worse yet: you’ve something to hide.

5) Use Facebook permission features and filter.  Although clunky and hard to figure out for most, users of Facebook can create groups (like one for colleagues) and allow them to only see certain types of information.

What Did We Do? Our Solution: The best course of action was number 5.  I had this individual create a separate group for work, and tag it the name of their company.  They then filtered what information that could be seen, of course, only professional related content void of those party pics from last week.   For the test they added me to this group and I confirmed it was only a limited view.  This individual then granted admission to their curious boss to Facebook –preserving the relationship.   In addition, I encouraged the individual to send a LinkedIn request –nothing like granting one’s request –and offering to grow it in yet another area.

What You Should Do: While it’s going to take time to setup, invest your time wisely and use Facebook’s group features from the start.  Everyone you add should be segmented into the right bucket so you can easily control who sees what of your life.  Also, set some guidelines of comfort where the line is for you, for some, putting colleagues into LinkedIn is the only place that it’s appropriate as Facebook could be for work alone.  See how to create and manage groups, manage privacy, and other advanced privacy features.

You A Boss?  First, Think It Through. A manager should first be sensitive to the relationship they have with their subordinates, you’re in a position of power.  Really gauge if your relationship is that of a friend, mentor, or just work related.   You may want to leave the offer open to your subordinates –and let them add as their prerogative, rather than forcing them into a potentially awkward situation.  If you do feel your relationship is on strong ground, send them a LinkedIn request first, and see if they reciprocate into Facebook.  Lastly, be sure to see if your content doesn’t embarrass you in front of your own team –use the filtering features yourself.

Social and Professional Lives Continue To Collide. Social networks technologies are pervasive, they’re creeping into our personal and professional lives.  The challenge is finding the separation –and defining the overlap between both.  Love to hear your stories of where social tools cross the employee and friend relationships.

  • http://www.myworkbutterfly.com Bradi

    I do try to keep my Facebook separate from those “i have just met”. As such, I have ignored requests from new colleagues or even clients. I do not believe it has affected me in any way.

    I think, or I hope, that people understand.

  • http://www.akworksconsulting.com Cryptblade

    I had this happen to me with one former boss recently. He had a habit of getting into people’s businesses and personal lives. He was, to put it mildly, a trifling gossiping woman.

    I had no problems pressing ignore and I did not feel at all bothered by it. It was, however, heavily bothered by his audacity to invade into my private life. My FB account is for family and friends – and some cool acquaintances. I use it to talk SEO and politics and to keep in touch with my peoples.

    Boss and co-workers are not my peoples. I leave that stuff in the office along with my work. Some co-workers who become friends, they then can be part of my FB circle.

    That’s how I carry it, etiquette or not. I do not believe in mixing work life with private life.

    Now on the other hand, if we’re talking about LinkedIn, then I have no problems with that because it’s meant to be a professional site.

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  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Have been thinking about this topic more.

    Bosses and team-members should consider Facebook akin to going to dinner, or going over to each others’ homes. Several of my former managers have invited me to their houses, and vice versa, which really is a symbol of allowing the work relationship into the home.

    It’s not the only indicator –but certainly one.

  • http://www.kiwano.ca Sofia Ribeiro

    Interesting article. I actually worked for a company that would always check a potential employee’s profile in Facebook, twitter and Linkedin. I agree with Jeremiah: you should think of Facebook as an informal network, open to friends and, luckily, two or three close co-workers.

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  • http://www.amalbala.com Amal Bala

    I would stick with the fifth option. Lists are easy, efficient ways to limit the amount of information you share on Facebook. If you want, you can change your privacy settings so that a friend can see practically no personal information at all beyond the basics.

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  • http://www.dixonschwabl.com/wowblog Jim Tausch

    We have developed social networking policies for our company and our clients. In our research we found that many companies prohibit management-level employees from “friending” subordinates. We don’t do that at our company, but we do refer to the general rules in our employee handbook regarding rules of conduct — they apply equally whether in the office or in the virtual world.

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  • Pat

    jeremiah — you are making the relationship issue way too complex. The answer is that you ignore the request and you email your manager in a very professional way:

    “Thank you for being interested in friend-ing me on Facebook. I would like to get to know you better before I do. I also try to keep the professional life separate from my work life. Thank you for undrstanding this.”

    Work is all about managing awkward situations. If you can’t manage your manager in this situation – then you can’t manage the situation when your manager is wrong and you have to correct her.

    Learn to deal.

  • Pat

    argh ..”the professional life separate from my work life. Thank you for undrstanding this.” –> “my personal life separate from my work life. Thank you for understanding this.”

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  • Shane Norris

    knock, knock, knock..
    ..
    um who is it?
    ..
    ah just one second I just need to tidy up ….

    Good advice, think it's time I setup some groupings.

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  • asdas

    whoooohoooo

  • servergirl

    Wow thank you! Yours was THE first helpful article. Most of them just talk about the social and work repercussions, but this actually offered me a solution. I had been just ignoring the request and I could tell it my boss has been a little short and distant with me. Not to mention OTHER co-workers added him willingly which made me look like I was rejecting him. I adjusted my privacy setting so he only has limited access to my pictures and private info. Now I've just got to make sure I watch my P's and Q's on my wall, but otherwise embarrassing-for-your-boss-to-see-stuff is blocked!
    I REALLY DON”T THINK BOSSES should put employees in this position. If you hang out with a co-worker enough, mention you're on facebook too. Chances are if they want to, they'll find you. Even if they don't, THEY might still like you as a person but wish to respect rank and guidelines and keep work and private life separate.

  • asdas

    whoooohoooo

  • servergirl

    Wow thank you! Yours was THE first helpful article. Most of them just talk about the social and work repercussions, but this actually offered me a solution. I had been just ignoring the request and I could tell it my boss has been a little short and distant with me. Not to mention OTHER co-workers added him willingly which made me look like I was rejecting him. I adjusted my privacy setting so he only has limited access to my pictures and private info. Now I've just got to make sure I watch my P's and Q's on my wall, but otherwise embarrassing-for-your-boss-to-see-stuff is blocked!
    I REALLY DON”T THINK BOSSES should put employees in this position. If you hang out with a co-worker enough, mention you're on facebook too. Chances are if they want to, they'll find you. Even if they don't, THEY might still like you as a person but wish to respect rank and guidelines and keep work and private life separate.

  • jrhgh5hi6hy9iouim
  • http://twitter.com/KariOBrien Kari O’Brien

    Haha, this has happened to me twice, once with a direct report, once with a semi-supervisor. I have a professional Facebook which my mom and other connections are a part of which keeps away some requests.
    In both these cases I sent them to my professional Facebook. Later my direct report manager and I became very close and we “took it to the next level” on my personal Facebook.

  • Natascha Thomson

    Jeremiah:

    this comes down to personality and culture, I think. I don’t see a problem in telling your boss FB is only for close friends and family if that is the case or a person wants to keep their private sphere.

    If the boss does not realize that the realtionship is either not close or that the employee simply wants to keep some boundaries – and as a consequence the relationship sours, I say: “Go find a better boss/job.” Honesty should always be the preferred modus operandi (truth can be communicated in kind fashion).

    It seems odd to me to create a sub-group for somebody who you make a “friend” when they really are not to satisfy their ego. Just does not sound right to me with a boss.

    Best,

    Natascha

  • Anonymous

    As a boss of several Gen Y’ers, I respect their privacy. Facebook isn’t for work, people.

    There is a saying, “a bitching sailor is a happy sailor.” Meaning, people need to vent. If something really bugs them, they know to come to me directly. I could give a rat’s asss if they complain about me (i.e. their boss) on Facobook. Though, I suspect most Gen Y’ers are smarter than you think when it comes to social media and what they may or may not say at 2 a.m. (fyi…you can delete a post the very next day in your hungover haze)

  • http://twitter.com/craighepburn Craig Hepburn

    I generally look at this through real world scenarios. So for example im generally happy to exchange business cards with people so would be happy to connect with them on LinkedIn for work purposes. Then if i build up a good relationship with colleagues or business associates over time i might invite them for dinner to my house or for a BBQ at which point i would them be more comfortable connecting with them on facebook. This is my general rule of thumb, however i still use filters and groups to help manage my friends in a less complex method to the above solution ;-)

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