Mark Zuckerberg wrote in the Facebook blog in July 2010 that the site had reached 500 million users. The social networking phenomenon has become an important communications tool for both pleasure and productivity. But should you befriend your boss on Facebook?
It's a delicate question. The answer will depend on factors like your workplace's culture, your boss's attitude and the sort of content you've included in your Facebook profile. Before you accept that friend request, you may have to remove digital dirt from your profile. That includes everything from potentially embarrassing or unprofessional pictures to associations with groups that might reflect poorly on you.
While adding your boss to your Facebook friends list requires careful consideration, there are a few good reasons to give it a try. Just keep in mind that if you decide to do it, you'll need to pay careful attention to your Facebook activity -- and your boss's activity as well.
Some companies are creating a presence on Facebook as part of a corporate strategy. These companies might value employee input and contributions to the Facebook page. If that's the case with your workplace, you might be expected to befriend coworkers. That might include your boss.
Rather than be intimidated by this, consider it an opportunity to show your own value to your employer. You'll probably need to maintain a professional appearance on the social network. Use Facebook's privacy settings and filter options to limit what people can see on your profile. You can even sort your coworkers into a list that only has access to certain parts of your page. Keep those photos of you wearing the lampshade and dancing the hula for people who don't sign your paycheck.
Companies like Salesforce.com use Facebook to help companies recruit new employees. The concept is simple -- software looks through the friends lists of company employees to find potential matches for positions. If your company follows such an initiative, you may need to befriend your boss to participate.
There are several pros and cons to this approach. Some companies offer referral bonuses to employees who refer friends to work for the company. With this approach, you might be rewarded if your company chooses to hire your friends. Salesforce.com uses a Facebook application -- you install it on your Facebook account and the company does the rest.
The cons are that it's invasive -- using the application gives Salesforce.com the ability to see all the information you can see on your friends' profile pages. You're giving a third party the chance to look at pages and see information that may not be public. You could land a friend a new job, but you may also lose your friend's trust in the bargain. Should your boss be able to see your crazy friends engaging in wacky shenanigans?
The workplace may not allow you to get to know your boss as a person. Becoming friends with your boss on Facebook may reveal that the two of you share common interests. Shared interests can lead to discussions and opportunities to show your boss you possess qualities that may not come out at work. For example, you might show initiative and leadership skills in your personal life, but your job doesn't give you the chance to exercise those skills. Your supervisor may see that you've got greater potential than your current position allows you to realize. You may want to check and see if your fellow coworkers have also befriended your boss on Facebook before you take the plunge.
Just remember to keep your behavior professional. Some people may feel that the normal boundaries that exist in workplace situations are less strict online. That may lead to unseemly behavior or communication passing between coworkers. You don't want to behave inappropriately toward your boss. And you don't want to encourage your supervisor to behave in an inappropriate way toward you. Unchecked, such activity could ultimately evolve into serious problems, including situations as serious as sexual harassment.
Do you have a lot of activities outside work? Maybe you volunteer for various organizations. Or perhaps you participate in charity events like fun runs and fundraisers. Maybe you're in a band or perform as an actor. These and other activities show that you're contributing to your community. They also show that you have interests outside of the office.
Showing your boss that you participate in activities outside the office can help you when you enter discussions about balancing your work with the rest of your life. If you can demonstrate that you're making a positive impact outside the workplace, you may be able to leverage that into a more liberal work policy. That could mean anything from flexible work hours to teleworking during part of the week.
Keep in mind these activities are positive. If you spend all your time outside the office carousing, goofing off or causing trouble, you won't want your boss to know about it.
It's easy to forget that Facebook is about building a network online. It's not just a platform for Farmville games or an online photo album. It's also a tool that lets you create a network of contacts that you may be able to leverage in the future. Adding your boss as a friend on Facebook includes your boss in that network of contacts.
How can this come in handy? Imagine your boss accepts a new position at a different company. Your boss finds success there, leading a division and building out a new team. One day, your boss thinks it might be a good idea to offer you a position at the new company -- a position with more opportunity and better compensation than what you receive at your current position. Befriending your supervisor on Facebook back when you both worked at the same company might be the link you need to get that invitation.
You may also find your boss to be a great resource for projects outside of work. If you share the same interests or value the same organizations, you may be able to network with your boss to achieve goals or complete projects outside of work. Ultimately, this relationship might bring benefit to your community.
While these are just a few reasons to consider adding your boss as a friend on Facebook, every person's situation is unique. Before you hit that "Accept" button, consider your own work environment and relationship with your boss. Don't add someone out of a sense of obligation without considering all the consequences.
Learn more about social networks by following the links on the next page.
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