I’ll admit it: I’m pro-friending! I love seeing what’s going on in my coworkers’ lives: how their kids are, what fun things they did over the weekend, funny pictures of their dog, etc. But not everyone is so gung-ho to be your friend on Facebook or follow you on Instagram. And I have to admit, there’s good reason for that. Even if you are good friends with your coworkers at work, think about the other side of yourself that you are letting your coworkers into once you friend them or accept their request to follow.
It is especially important among younger generations to have friendships with coworkers (see the infographic below from AgCareers.com’s 2013 Total Rewards Survey), and with their added interest in social media, it may seem natural to want to be friends on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. But friending coworkers on social media breaks down another wall. Before you hit “accept” on that friend request, weigh the following pro’s and con’s to determine whether or not being friends is in your best interest professionally.
As an aside, connecting with a coworker or supervisor on LinkedIn is very different from connecting with a coworker on Facebook. LinkedIn is a professional atmosphere in which you can interact with coworkers on a professional, work-related level; it’s totally okay to do so. Connecting with a coworker on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram opens up your personal life outside of work; it may warrant some discretion.
PRO’s of Following or Friending Coworkers on Social Media
• Stay in touch with former coworkers: This is something that’s important to me. I have past internship supervisors that I still stay in touch with via social media. I like to be able to see how they and their families are doing and even how the business I once worked for is. It also builds your network that much more strongly when you have a bit more of a personal tie to an individual when they can see what’s going on in your life and you in theirs. For example, I would ask for a recommendation from someone I’m friends with on Facebook over a previous supervisor that I’m not.
• Build bonds & camaraderie: If I saw that my coworker went on a road trip over the weekend, or if they shared a funny video, I can ask them about it on Monday. It can boost your relationships if you have that little extra knowledge and visualization about coworkers’ lives and interests outside of work.
CON’s of Following or Friending Coworkers on Social Media
• Imperfect moments from your past can resurface: Maybe there are a few party-hardy pictures from Facebook albums of yore. Or maybe your other friend will share a not so flattering moment from days gone by. Sometimes I even go back through old, normal photos and realize how I captioned them was offensive or inappropriate. So unless you’re a lily white angel and have nothing to hide, there are chances your coworkers could see those moments and that could raise some eyebrows.
• Your social filter will need to be ON 24/7: If you post things on social media that you wouldn’t say or talk about at work, don’t friend your coworkers. This includes political rants, profanity, immaturity, and considering posting about anything that relates to your work or industry. For example, if you work for a seed production company and share an anti-GMO article, how will that look to your coworkers? Plus, you can’t be all “I hate Mondays and my job and my life” when your supervisor can see it. Remember that people have been fired over what they have posted on social media.
• Does it break professionalism?: If your coworkers can like and comment on and retweet your social media posts, think about how that could translate professionally. Is there a chance that favoritism is now on the table if your supervisor and you bond over your love of cats or Star Wars? Or is the atmosphere at work that much less professional now that you are social media friends?
• It could also hurt relationships: Friending coworkers on social media or following them could just simply create a different perception of you or your relationships. Think about hanging out with a different coworker and posting about it–could it hurt another coworker somehow?
The Verdict of Friending Coworkers on Facebook or Other Forms of Social Media
While it looks like the cons outweigh the pros, it really also depends on your workplace culture. If your boss doesn’t care what you post online or you work in a small, laid-back office where you and your coworkers regularly hang out after hours, friend away! Just remember to be cautious if this is not the case and to use good judgment. You want to be your best, professional self at work, and if your social media self could contradict that, keep that privacy between yourself and your coworkers.
Also remember, on Facebook, you can set your privacy differently for each friend. So even if you decide to be friends with a coworker, they don’t have to see everything.
Even if you decide you shouldn’t be friends with or follow your coworkers on social media, you can always follow AgCareers.com! And you know you want to. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram.