Friending faux-pas?

06 April 2011

London, 06 April 2011 – A culture of open communication coupled with the rise of social media may be blurring the line between personal and professional, suggests a new survey by OfficeTeam, a leading recruitment consultancy. More than three in four (76 per cent) British workers are comfortable connecting to their coworkers on Facebook and nearly four in 10 (38 per cent) are comfortable ‘friending’ their boss.

Conducted by an independent research firm, 814 UK office workers were asked, “How comfortable, if at all, would you feel about being ‘friended’ on Facebook by each of the following”:

  Your Boos Your co-workers
Very comfortable 13% 29%
Somewhat Comfortable 25% 47%
Not very comfortable 29% 13%
Not at all comfortable 29% 9%
Don't know 3% 2%

Not surprisingly, the tendency to connect on social media varies by age. While 84 per cent of workers aged 25-34 are comfortable friending their co-workers and 45 per cent their boss, for workers aged 55 who use Facebook, only 64 per cent and 38 per cent, respectively, are comfortable doing so.

“While social media has helped foster a more interactive and sociable working environment, individuals should always be aware that any information they post online about themselves may influence their current or future employers”, said Phil Booth, director of OfficeTeam’s UK operations. “While some may choose to use their privacy features to ensure overly-personal information remains confidential, others may opt for using more professional social networking sites, like LinkedIn, to stay connected with professional contacts.”

Following are some common Facebook situations professionals may encounter and how to handle them:

• You’re tagged in an embarrassing photo. Untag yourself and change your privacy settings so photos are viewable only by your close friends.

• You’re friended by someone you don’t want to connect with. It might be best to accept friend requests from colleagues to avoid slighting them, but add them to a ‘work’ list and adjust your privacy settings so you can effectively separate your job from your personal life.

• You’re considering friending your boss. It may seem like a natural extension of amiable office small talk, but think twice before proactively friending your boss. It could become awkward for both of you.

• You want to join various groups. You should join groups that interest you. But if you have colleagues in your network and don’t want them to see the groups you join, remember to adjust your application settings.

• You would like to be a fan of certain pages. Becoming a fan of pages on Facebook is visible to anyone who can view your profile, so you should avoid becoming a fan of any page you are uncomfortable sharing with coworkers or business contacts in your network.

• You love games. Stop and think for a moment before playing certain social network games and posting the results to your Facebook page – unless you want professional contacts to know about the new cow you’ve purchased on FarmVille.

To prevent professionals from falling victim to online slip-ups, OfficeTeam, a leading provider for office and administrative support professionals, has released a new guide, Business Etiquette: The New Rules in a Digital Age, offering tips on how employees can appropriately use professional networking sites, social media, e-mail, instant messaging, mobile devices and more.