Recently, a colleague of mine over at The Work Buzz answered a reader’s concern that, I suspect, is becoming more and more common in today’s workplace:
Certainly, there are valid reasons for following or “friending” your colleagues on social networking sites like Facebook, Bebo or Twitter; however, many people believe in keeping their professional and personal lives separate. A perfectly valid and reasonable choice, of course, but it can make for an awkward situation when that Facebook friendship request comes around…
And when said request is from a colleague someone you manage or are superior to, the situation can be that much more sensitive. While you might not feel comfortable having access to information on your employee’s personal life, this concern might not have occurred to your employee, and ignoring or declining their request could send the wrong message.
That said, we here at The Hiring Site decided to look at this issue from the manager’s viewpoint, and give some tips for declining an employee’s social networking friendship request – without damaging the workplace relationship:
- Explain why you rejected the request: Rejecting a friendship request is quick and easy…until your face-to-face with the person you just rejected. Fortunately, all it takes is a short, simple explanation to alleviate any awkwardness. Work Buzz blogger Anthony Balderrama suggests saying something that’s light hearted, but gets the message across that you don’t mix your professional and social lives. Try something like, “I prefer to keep that profile separate from any work stuff just to be safe. I don’t want anyone seeing the embarrassing high school pictures. I was so goofy!” Suggest instead that you two connect over LinkedIn, Brightfuse or another site meant specifically for professional networking.“Few people will hold a grudge about a Facebook rejection (if it comes with a good explanation). But careers can and have been ruined by the wrong people seeing the wrong information,” Balderrama writes.
- Be honest: The “I want to keep my personal and professional lives separate line” can come back to bite you if it’s not the truth – especially if the employee you just rejected finds out that you’re online friends with other people at the company. Maybe for whatever reason, you just don’t want to be friends with that particular employee, but if you’re not honest, that employee is likely to find out you lied to him or her, which is a quick way to kill morale – not to mention your own credibility.
Of course, there’s always the option of just sucking it up, accepting the request, and living with the consequences – but that could also mean being privy to more information about an employee than you may want or feel comfortable with…
What are your thoughts? Ever had to reject an employee’s friend request – or wished you had rejected it? Share with us (anonymously, if you prefer) in the comments section below!