May 31, 2009
Facebook and coworkers: A lesson in etiquette
I was having dinner with friends the other day when the conversation invariably turned to Facebook.
One friend said he'd all but stopped using the social networking site because he'd accepted friend requests from too many coworkers and could no longer keep track of who might be looking at his status updates and photos. I too fessed up to mixing business and pleasure on Facebook and now felt like I couldn't take a two-minute Facebook break while on deadline for fear an editor might see.
Wondering if my friend and I needed a refresher in the etiquette of Facebooking with coworkers, I ran a few questions by Jesse Stay, social media guru and co-author of I'm on Facebook -- Now What?? Here's what he had to say.
Q. Your boss sends you a Facebook friend request. You don't want to accept. What should you do?
A. Keep in mind that accepting the friend request may reveal some important information about your boss and his/her life. This could be that needed information to help build a stronger relationship with your boss and forge that needed raise or promotion down the road.
If you choose to accept your boss's friend request, be sure to adjust your privacy settings (click Settings, then Privacy Settings from the drop-down list that appears, then Profile) so only the information you want your boss to see shows up for them. Choose the Customize option in the drop-down lists shown on the page (Status and Links, Photos Tagged of You, etc.), and in the Except These People box, type your boss's name. You can also do this with any photo album or video you upload to Facebook.
Q. An ex-coworker or manager that you didn't really care for asks to friend you on Facebook. Are you obligated to accept?
A. There's certainly no obligation, but I don't believe in burning bridges. And since you can control what others see of you on Facebook, it might be worth accepting their friend request and seeing what happens. You may want to place them in a list of more "public" friends, which you can then not include when you set up your privacy settings.
Q. Any suggestions for my friend who's worried that his Facebook account has become overrun with coworkers?
A. In the upper-left of Facebook's home page, there's an option to create a friend list. (To do this, click the Create link.) Create one for work, family, and friends. I usually have a couple "close friend" categories and leave the rest of my friends out of any specific friend lists. Then I set up in my privacy settings for it to only display information to those friend groups.
To do this, click Settings, then Privacy Settings, then Profile. In the drop-down lists presented (Status and Links, Photos Tagged of You, etc.), select Customize, then select Some Friends. In the box that appears, type in the friend lists you just created. Only those friends will be able to see those specific pieces of Facebook.
Q. If you accept a coworker as a friend and later have second thoughts, how terrible is it to delete them? Do you need to offer an explanation?
A. If you have to see them every day you might want to explain, but my prediction is they'll never notice. Facebook doesn't send a notification when someone de-friends you, so often the person being de-friended never finds out. They just stop receiving your updates in their news feed. However, if you think it warrants an explanation to be polite, then it may be worth letting them know. For me, I just de-friend them and if they ask, I'll explain why.
Q. Anything else you think we should know about Facebooking with coworkers?
A. The number one rule in social networking is there are no rules. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise. If the way you use Facebook works for you, then keep on doing what you're doing.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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