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.