Executives Balk at Facebook for Work

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Menlo Park, Calif. — Sept. 1

Thinking about “friending” your boss on Facebook? You may want to reconsider.

According to a recent survey, nearly half of executives are uncomfortable being friended by the employees they manage (48 percent) or their bosses (47 percent).

The survey was developed by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with 150 randomly selected senior executives at some of the nation's 1,000 largest companies.

Executives were asked, “How comfortable would you feel about being 'friended' by the following individuals on Facebook?” Their responses:

  • 19 percent said they were very comfortable being friended by their boss; 13 percent for co-workers, 12 percent for people they manage; 7 percent for clients; and 6 percent for vendors.
  • 28 percent said they were somewhat comfortable being friended by their boss; 38 percent for co-workers, 32 percent for people they manage; 34 percent for clients; and 23 percent for vendors.
  • 15 percent said they were not very comfortable being friended by their boss; 13 percent for co-workers, 15 percent for people they manage; 17 percent for clients; and 24 percent for vendors.
  • 32 percent said they were not comfortable being friended by their boss; 28 percent for co-workers, 33 percent for people they manage; 33 percent for clients; and 38 percent for vendors.
  • 6 percent said they weren't sure about being friended by their boss; 8 percent for co-workers, 8 percent for people they manage; 9 percent for clients; and 9 percent for vendors.

“The line between personal and professional has grown increasingly blurred as more people use social networking Web sites for business purposes,” said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Although not everyone is comfortable using sites like Facebook to connect with professional contacts, it's wise to be prepared for these types of requests.”

Hosking advises employees on Facebook to be sure they are in compliance with their employer's social networking policy. They should then familiarize themselves with privacy settings and create different friend lists to control how — and with whom — information is shared.

“Individuals should classify their professional contacts into a 'work' list and limit what personal details this group can view,” said Hosking.

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 co-workers or business contacts in your network.
  • You love quizzes. Stop and think for a moment before taking online quizzes and posting the results to your Facebook page, unless you want professional contacts to know which “Gilligan's Island” character you most resemble.
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