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Would you Facebook with your boss?

Categories: Career, The Juggle, Working? Living?

16 comments

I was on Facebook the other night, scanning through my friends’ status updates. I’ve declared my love of Facebook here before — sometimes, it’s the easiest way for me to reconnect with friends and extended family, and reading the Twitter-like mini-posts and shared news (or non-news) articles makes me feel a little more in-touch with the far-flung people in my life.

I generally try to keep Facebook for my friends and family and use LinkedIn for professional networking but, just as in real life, those two worlds collide from time to time.

Among my Facebook Friends’ status updates was one from a colleague. Or, rather, from her husband, whom I’ve never actually met in real life and yet am friends with on Facebook. Their new baby had arrived over the weekend, hale and hearty, and the good wishes were pouring in.

I surfed over to my colleague’s profile and added a “Congratulations!” to the growing list of posts on her wall. And then I took a peek at her Friends List. There were several familiar faces there… other colleagues, mostly, but also our boss.

Now, my boss is a good guy, but we’re not buddies or anything. There’s a definite hierarchy in our department, and he and I move in distinctly separate circles. Though we are networked on LinkedIn — I asked him to be one of my connections there, and was grateful that he accepted — I can’t even imagine asking him to be my friend on Facebook (if he asked me, of course, I’d say yes. I’m skittish, not stupid).

Which made me wonder: Why am I comfortable asking my boss to network with me on LinkedIn but not on Facebook?

For starters, when it comes to people I know from the office, the difference between LinkedIn and Facebook is much like the difference between handing someone your business card versus handing him a scrap of paper with your name and number scribbled on it. There’s a formality and a sense of professionalism on LinkedIn that I don’t feel on Facebook. (Call me crazy, but any place where someone can lob a sheep at you just isn’t that formal, in my book.)

Also, there’s a difference between networking and socializing, I think. I don’t have family photos on LinkedIn, I don’t post one-sentence snippets about what I’m thinking there, I certainly don’t log on and tell my LinkedIn contact list that my daughter is sick or I’m sleep deprived — all things I feel fine about mentioning to my Facebook Friends. My LinkedIn profile is set to public — anyone can see it. My Facebook profile? For friends’ eyes only, thank you.

That said, you won’t find me letting it all hang out on Facebook, either. Just as there’s a difference between networking and socializing, there’s a difference between socializing and airing my unmentionables in public. Whenever you post anything on the internet, your reputation is on the line, after all. Even if your boss isn’t on your Friends List.

Would you Facebook with your boss? And, if you’re a boss, would you Facebook with your colleauges? How about your subordinates?



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16 comments so far...

  • I just had this conversation with a coworker yesterday. No matter how much we may “like” our boss, I think we should try to keep part of our life private and personal. Unless of course you’re married to your boss… :-)

    BlapherMJ  |  October 23rd, 2008 at 12:17 am

  • Wow, this is really interesting - and I’ve had this conversation with myself. I lay it all down on Facebook - pictures, etc. that I would never publish on LinkedIn. I think the two are very distinct and should remain separate entities for the good of both parties!

    Kristin D  |  October 23rd, 2008 at 12:39 am

  • I say, for me, no way! As the other commenters and you have said, Facebook is the place where I let myself be ‘real’ in a way I don’t think I’d feel comfortable letting my boss see me. Two points you made have got me thinking. First, if my boss were to ‘friend’ me, I’m not sure I would say yes. I already have lots of family pictures, music links, and especially political affiliations and statements. I happen to know that my boss has similar political affiliations, but we do not talk about it, and our office has a culture that frowns upon that sort of thing. I’m just a lot more effusive on Facebook than I’m prepared to let my boss see, I guess. But, the good news is that I think we could talk about it if she were to ‘friend’ me, which says many positive things about our working relationship.

    The second point that struck me was your comment about your filtering on Facebook itself. I feel comfortable with how I represent myself for the most part (my content runs to the categories I mentioned before- family pics, music or books, lots of my political opinions). But, as I add more friends, I wonder if I need to tone it down in some ways. I have several family members on my friend list who I know have different political beliefs or values, but I’ve gone with the position that if they don’t want to think the way I think, they don’t have to. But they’re my family, so they’re not really going anywhere, and their opinions of me were formed long ago (inaccurate as they may be, ha ha). For people who don’t *really* know me, should I consider how my sense of humor will come off to them, or just let them deal with it? For the most part, these are people with whom I’ve interacted some in person, but we just didn’t have a very deep relationship before life moved us away from each other and precluded more in person contact. I’d be curious, Lylah or others, to hear more about your thought process for what you include on Facebook.

    Interesting post!

    Traci  |  October 23rd, 2008 at 7:10 am

  • I actually do have my boss as a friend on facebook. I think it depends on the workplace and what type of a relationship you have with your boss. There are some ex-bosses that I have on Linkin but wouldn’t even think about having them as friends on facebook. Not that we didn’t have a good working relationship but just because I wouldn’t put them in the ‘friends’ category.

    Then again, I do try to stay neutral on Facebook since I also use it as a networking tool for my business. I don’t post strong political or religious perspectives on it nor too many family pictures.

    Zak  |  October 23rd, 2008 at 10:15 am

  • I feel like I can’t be completely honest on Facebook, because there are so many colleagues on there. I typically don’t seek out colleagues as friends, but many have “friended” me, so there I am, thinking through my one-liners and screening them based on who might read them.

    Your fears are not unfounded though. I know of someone on another mom site who was posting negative comments about her boss and was turned in by a co-worker. She lost her job as a result. That’s enough to de-twitter anybody, right?

    I joking asked someone the other day if they thought it would make it in my personnel file if I “friended” our HR Manager on Facebook during office hours (she was listed as a person I might know). All laughing aside, I didn’t have the guts to friend her.

    Brenda  |  October 23rd, 2008 at 11:46 am

  • My boss is my friend on Facebook. He actually had asked me to set up his Facebook account for him. Although not my job, it seemed like a way more fun way to spend my paid time in the office than doing my actual work. Since I was setting up his account, he told me that he needed friends now and asked to be my friend. I kind of figured it would be rude to say no.

    Oceans Mom  |  October 23rd, 2008 at 1:40 pm

  • I forgot to mention above, though. When I got back from vacation and posted my status as “…is sad to be back from vacation”, he posted a comment below that said “Nothing is more fun than selling houses.” It made him feel bad that I was upset to be back working for him! So there is a downside. Plus, if I update my status at work, he can see that I was on Facebook at work!

    Oceans Mom  |  October 23rd, 2008 at 1:43 pm

  • Oh, HECK NO. It’s weird enough that real friends and blog friends are all meshed together. I cannot imagine throwing a boss into the mix.

    Angella  |  October 23rd, 2008 at 3:45 pm

  • Oh, tough one. For me, I would never initiate contact but if my boss were to friend me first, I would think that not accepting would be bad too.

    Nataly  |  October 23rd, 2008 at 7:12 pm

  • very interesting topic. I feel the way you feel.

    Isn’t it wonderful how each social networking site is well distinguished.

    I am also jelaous that facebook and linkedin and twitter are getting so much publicity. I want to be at that point some day, where everyone is talking about my organization.

    vera babayeva  |  October 24th, 2008 at 12:23 pm

  • i was all about NO WAY having collegues or *gasp* bosses on Facebook. Then my collegues started frending me! now i also have both of my direct reports and during a meeting my 2 level up boss asked me to friend her so i did… so i now have 2 friend categories and all my work people go in the limited bucket to shield them from other folks that might post craziness on my facebook profile! That was i can still mostly be ‘me’ :) I think we are different since our company has a presence there and folks in my department are working toward bringing similar types of technology within the company - it’s ‘research’ to facebook! ok maybe not but it’s not looked down on either :)

    kate  |  October 25th, 2008 at 9:06 pm

  • Good article, I would not facebook or myspace with my boss. I agree all your terms—-as a matter of fact, I’m not on facebook now, because my kids use it, and some of my friends are actually on their profiles…see my kids everyday, all day all night…must I need to have them on my soc network as well? And if I’m on my friends, then they can see my comments to them etc..no thanks!

    Duong  |  October 25th, 2008 at 11:23 pm

  • NO!!!! OK, technically I’m my own boss as I do a lot of freelance. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I finally facebooked. Now I know. I ignore people’s friends requests almost daily and not b/c I don’t want to have a relationship but because I do have there is a bit protected. Oh, and if I didn’t like you in high school, I”m not going to make you a friend there either. Just thought I’d let you know now. heheheee.

    Mandy Nelson  |  October 26th, 2008 at 10:21 pm

  • I learned the hard way that nothing is private, hidden, or anonymous on the internet. As a result I monitor what I put on Facebook and Twitter as well as LinkedIn, not to mention the numerous places that feature my writing. Each site I’m active on has its own distinct energy and focus, but I’m careful to ensure that overall I’m relatively consistent. I have my own business and many of my clients are on Facebook; lots of people use it for communication and I’d be remiss if I ignored it as an important networking opportunity.

    Karen Murphy  |  October 27th, 2008 at 2:27 pm

  • It is great for networking, I have to admit — I have several current and former coworkers among my Facebook friends. But if my cousin posts a questionable video, do I really want my boss to see it? Ummm…. not really!

    Lylah  |  October 27th, 2008 at 4:05 pm

  • My company develops applications for Facebook, so for us it’s a little different. Some of us had accounts way before we started doing this kindof work, some of us created accounts specifically for the ‘research’. But, everyone is on it and everyone knows where to find everyone else. That said, I happen to be friended with my boss but I know many coworkers who pefer not to be and I guess he hasnt reached out to. I sometimes wonder about my “woken up at 3 by child looking for bunny” status and if he sees it and knows why I’m so tired. But, since he has kids the same age I figure its not a big deal. My coworkers who have insane pics posted of them being crazy over the weekend prefer to keep their profiles to themselves. The most I post is my kids pics and I guess I dont care if my boss/clients sees those.

    dina  |  October 28th, 2008 at 10:24 pm

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