Balancing Work and Social Media Relationships

Navigating connections with your boss or coworkers can be tricky. Our expert shares some clever strategies.

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Illustration by Laura Pérez

Jodi Glickman, CEO of Great on the Job, shares her advice about balancing work and social media relationships.

How does social media usage at work vary from industry to industry, and how common is it for companies to have a social media policy?
Glickman says that most corporate clients she works with absolutely have social media polices. In high tech, social media is an integral part of life. Most technology companies encourage their employees to have social profiles and to think of themselves as extensions of the brand, says Glickman. So if you work at LinkedIn, for example, everyone is always posting—sharing ideas, articles and research. But on the flip side, Glickman was at a big financial firm recently, and their employees weren’t allowed access to sites like LinkedIn; they were expected to build their professional network after office hours.

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When is connecting appropriate?
“Decide what your social philosophy is going to be,” says Glickman. “What if you friended five colleagues on social media. Would that make it difficult for the others that you don’t want to be friends with? Or are you going to connect with all of your colleagues and just open the floodgates?” When it comes to your boss, let them take the lead, says Glickman. Don’t friend them unless they friend you first.

Will friending your boss on social media affect your job security?
When you’re friends with your boss on social media, you’re letting them see what goes on in the rest of your life, so you need to be extra vigilant, use good judgment and maintain professionalism. It’s great, for example, if you do really cool things in your personal life that your boss wouldn’t know about unless they connected with you, like volunteering or pursuing certain hobbies. It could possibly lead to a project based on your interests. But if you’re out drinking with friends, do you want your boss to see a picture of that? Follow the same boundaries you would set for your in-person life—if you’re not comfortable with everyone seeing something, don’t share it at all. 

How are employers using social media to vet potential candidates?
According to a 2017 survey by CareerBuilder, 57% of employers are less likely to interview a candidate if they can’t find them online. So Glickman thinks the best strategy is to clean up your social profiles rather than delete them. “Also know that a large number of employers not only look at Facebook and LinkedIn accounts but also Google your name to see what else they can possibly find out about you,” she says.

How do you politely decline a friend or follow request?
Glickman says that social media is an extension of your interpersonal relationships, and how far to extend the connection is up to you. “It’s a personal decision for everyone, but if you are asked, you can say that you’re really on Facebook only for family members and are not connected to colleagues,” says Glickman. Also remember that most people aren’t keeping tabs as to whether you have accepted or declined their request. Many in social media suggest creating two accounts: one public facing, for colleagues and brand building, and another locked-down version with tight security controls that is reserved for family and close friends. 

Jodi Glickman is the CEO of Great on the Job, a leadership development and communication firm.

First appeared in our November 2017 edition.