Ask an Analyst: Should I Friend My Boss on Facebook?

Welcome back to Ask an Analyst where we answer your most asked questions and concerns about social media screening.  Lately, we’ve also been thinking about the more granular questions that people have about their conduct on social media, i.e. not just answering “how does SMS affect me directly?” but also talking about the squidgy questions, such as “should I be friends with my boss on Facebook?"

Ooph.  It’s a great question, and frankly, there’s no easy answer to this one.  

What's your industry?

To start, it largely depends on your industry.  One the one hand, if you’re working in a more traditional industry like real estate, chances are your boss might find this a breach of professional conduct.  On the other, if you’re in a creative field like the arts, being friends with your boss might be a necessity because artists don’t tend to use professional platforms like LinkedIn to go about their networking.  For an artist, being friendly with your boss on Facebook might be the equivalent advice of “go to parties, not auditions,” but for a real estate or insurance broker, the less your boss knows about your personal life, the more professional capital you gain with them.  

But what if I work in tech?

At this point, you might be thinking: well, I work in the tech industry and my boss is less than 10 years older than me, we work in an open-office, and everyone gets along like friends.  What do I do?  Well, would you be friends with your boss in real life?  Would you say the same things you post on Facebook over a casual drink off the clock?  If the answer is yes, then friending your boss doesn’t seem like it would breach any personal boundaries.  In any case, ask around.  Do your coworkers all friend them?  Would you be losing any professional capital by hitting that friend request button?  It’s okay to listen to that voice in your gut that’s telling you not to friend them.

It's okay to compartmentalize!

Remember, your boss is still your boss.  Employers are still completely capable of dropping in on your social media, even if you’ve already been through social media screening.  If your professional life is built on having a powerful social media presence that interacts with other coworkers as well as the wider public, maybe look into grooming your social media presence a touch--a little prudence never hurt anybody--or even compartmentalizing your platforms.  For example, if your job depends on having a professional Twitter that involves your boss, then maybe think about making Facebook your private, personal-connections-only platform where you can feel more secure about letting loose.

At the end of the day, friending your boss should be clarifying in your professional relationship, not confusing.  If you feel like personal contact would muddy the waters, then you’re probably better off leaving it be.  There’s nothing wrong with compartmentalizing your life.   Code-switching in and out of professional and casual environments is normal!  Keeping your more opinionated self out of your boss’s reach isn’t skeevy, it’s wise.