Cube vs. Corner: The dreaded Facebook friend request from the boss

employee employer relationship

So last week, my friend brought up an issue:

“My boss just friended me on Facebook, and it’s super weird. I don’t know what to do. Thoughts?”

In the Cube vs. Corner series, Brad and Devan talk about different workplace issues and share their perspective as an employee and employer. This time we’re talking about the dreaded friend request from the boss. Should the boss friend employees on Facebook? Follow them on Instagram or Twitter? Should the employee accept them? What’s appropriate? What does it feel/look like to each person?

Brad and Devan talk it out:

DEVAN

Devan_smallMy first thought is yes, in most cases, it is legitimately awkward and/or weird. However, after sitting with it, I realize this is something to consider on a case-by-case basis.  It really depends on what kind of a relationship you have with your boss.

But first I would ask the employee — what makes you hesitant or repulsed by it?

Maybe your response is, “This is my personal life — I want to keep my personal and professional life separate.” Okay, I get it. I really do. But are you hesitant about it because there are things you don’t want them to see?

You’re a grown up. You know that what you put on the Internet, you can never get back. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. My colleague laid it out really well: “You shouldn’t have anything out there that you wouldn’t want someone else to know – and that means anyone.”

If you don’t want your mom, your employer, or a certain someone to know you go out drinking all Friday night, then don’t post anything about it on social media.

BRAD

Brad_small
As you know, I quit Facebook, so we won’t have this problem… But I also don’t think it’s weird to “Link In” with a boss (or employee), and I don’t think it’s weird for a boss to follow someone on Twitter. But Facebook seems more personal — I don’t think I’d recommend it.

Of course there are the obvious issues. What happens when the employee calls in sick on Monday and you see pictures of her tailgating on Sunday? Most of us have griped about coworkers or our boss at one point to others on social media – do you really want to see that? And yes, the same issues could come up on Twitter or LinkedIn, but it’s less likely.

And then it gets even worse if you part ways. What happens when they quit and it doesn’t end so pretty? What happens when your new co-workers see your old boss commenting on your stream? Avoid the weirdness. Don’t do it.

What about Instagram? Everything is public there too.

DEVAN

Devan_smallI think Brad asked me this question because he follows me on Instagram. Hah! Now I’ll be totally honest, I felt a little weird about it at first. But I realized I have nothing to hide and I share Instagram photos on Twitter sometimes, which Brad would see anyway. Being a digital marketer, I’m hyper aware that what I put out there is for the world to see, so whether it’s my boss, my mother or my previous employer, I try to do my best to put out there only what I want others to see.

Now I have a question directed at the boss.

Why are you friend requesting an employee in the first place?

Think about your intentions. If you have a family-type environment at work, then it might be more appropriate (only if there is mutual consent). But did you send that request because you are trying to “learn” more about your employee?  Are you just being nosy? Even if it seems like innocent curiosity, is it really appropriate to do? Is it professional? (Keep in mind, the boss sets the standards. If you want to snoop, would it be okay for them to snoop on your life, too?) Either way, I would call those intentions questionable at best.

Or are you trying to be “just one of the guys”? Is it that you just want to make friends with your employees? I know, it can get lonely at the top, and you want to feel part of the team, it’s natural. We often hear that from clients at Anchor Advisors. However, even if that’s case, I would say that’s no good either.

Why? Because the terrible truth is, we don’t want to be your friend, we want you to be our boss!

We want a boss who leads–who sees where the ship is going and is making sure everyone gets there.  In order to lead, you need your employees to respect you and your authority as “the boss”. But if your team considers you “one of the guys (or gals)”, your ability to provide that kind of leadership is compromised. (Don’t be a Michael Scott.)

BRAD

Brad_smallThat’s a very good question Devan. Bosses who try to be “friends” with their employees make a big mistake. It’s unlikely that they are ever going to be BFF’s with their employees (they just aren’t peers) and they are giving up a lot of authority and perspective in the process. Don’t do it. Even if you have a very relaxed environment, you need to keep some boundaries.

If you are a boss that’s trying to snoop, again, DON’T. Either you are going to find out that everyone loves you (which is what you thought to start with) or you are going to find out that they dislike you and complain about you all the time. How is that going to feel? Everyone complains about his or her boss at some point.  It is better that you don’t take it personally; and best if you don’t even know about it.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with anything we said? Disagree? Are you friends with your employees on Facebook?

 

 

Devan Perine

Devan Perine works with small business owners on their marketing and multimedia efforts. She's passionate about helping businesses build their presence online, and giving Gen Y a voice in the workplace. When she's not working, she loves to make a mess in the kitchen, and play with her band around Chicago. She loves to chat! Give her a shout on Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Comments

  1. Hi Devan,

    It’s an interesting question. I’ve talked to people who hold opinions for and against and I suppose it depends upon the situation. It may also depend upon the business you’re in. Thanks for sharing with the BizSugar community.

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