Should I Be Friends With My Coworkers on Social Media?

A vast majority of adults use at least one social networking site and have a regular presence on them. Your family members, close friends, and even complete strangers can follow you in small numbers or droves to see your thoughts on your favorite genre of movie or long personal stories. Thus, co-workers and bosses eventually were added to the fold and presented a two-sided risk for both parties. Should you be friends with your work colleagues on social media?

The Pros and Cons of Co-Workers on Social Media

Some benefits to having the people you work with being close to you on social media is that you can form the kind of camaraderie and inside jokes that add to or replace water cooler chat at most traditional workplaces. Friendships can be forged over social media in a way that they sometimes can’t at the workplace because you’re either siloed into different functions and don’t get to see each other, or you’re just busy with work. Because social media is more instantaneous and flash-in-the-pan through email, it can also improve collaboration and staying in touch if a co-worker gets transferred or moves onto a different job. All of these can lead to new opportunities you otherwise might not have gained access to.

But these benefits ultimately depends on the type of work environment you have, the nature of your and your co-workers’ posts, and overall conduct on social media which may include attempts to keep your private life private. Many people use avatars and handles that don’t use their real name or photo so they won’t be discovered just in case they vocalize an opinion that could put their jobs in jeopardy. For example, posting social or political views you’re aware your boss does not align with could lead to friction or even job loss if they follow you or are aware of your account.

Even a Professional and Squeaky-Clean Social Profile Can Present Problems

Many critics argue that what you do with your life off the clock is not your employer’s business, whether you post that picture of a night at the clubs on Twitter or not. But even if you limit your social media usage with co-workers and bosses to just your LinkedIn and creating “alt” Facebook, Twitter, etc. accounts that are different from your private life, you still run other risks despite this totally professional and bland image you’re projecting.

Your boss could show favoritism with you or other co-workers and foster animosity. If they also pay attention to which employees like various posts, especially if they’re for new jobs, that can totally be a strike against you. If you still need your job, the last thing you want your boss seeing is that you’re job-hunting on LinkedIn or anywhere else. The same goes for any co-workers who might resent you for any reason then decide to anonymously tell your boss that you’re thinking about leaving.

Even if you’ve never uttered a disparaging statement toward your boss or co-workers, you still never know what could be misinterpreted if you say anything on social media — even under an alt account. If you decide to just skip the risk and not add anyone you work with to social accounts, this can put you between a rock and a hard place in that this refusal can make them believe you are hiding something. Know the risks and use your judgment cautiously depending on the situation, your social presence and any alt accounts, and type of workplace and culture.

Do you connect with your coworkers on social media platforms? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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