Should HR Have Facebook Friends at Work – Ask HR Bartender

by Sharlyn Lauby on July 12, 2012

Here’s a question that I’ve asked myself before. So after a reader asked me about it, I wanted to share it with you:

I’m an HR Manager for a small company. Because of that, stronger relationships have formed, leading employees to send me friend requests on Facebook.

Here’s my question…I know there’s a lot of discussion about social media in the workplace, so what is your opinion about being “friends” with your staff? Do you have a previous article that I’ve overlooked on this topic?

I have written before about Facebook friending and developing friendships at work. I wish I could say there are hard and fast rules where this is concerned. But there’s not. Each person has to decide what’s best for them on social media. This isn’t just for HR pros, but anyone using social media.

I still think it’s a touchy subject for HR pros and it really boils down to the maturity of the relationship. It could be very weird to friend an employee who later needs performance coaching or discipline. Or uncomfortable to see a colleague’s latest splurge knowing that a layoff is coming.

On the other hand, I can see where friending a co-worker can demonstrate a level of transparency. Especially in human resources. Often HR is considered a keeper of company secrets and when employees figure out HR is just as human as everyone else, it can really benefit the working relationship.

An article in Training Magazine said that younger employees are more likely to friend their supervisor and believe that doing so can help them be more effective at work. You can check out the research on “How Facebook is Changing the Supervisory Relationship” here.

I also found an interesting survey on ZD Net that shows 1 in 5 employees are friends with their boss on Facebook. 46% say they friended their boss while 38% say their boss friended them. So an action we might have initially considered as being workplace taboo – friending the boss – might not be as unthought-of as we originally presumed.

I wonder if this research about friending the boss applies to HR. What do you think? Would you become a Facebook friend with someone in your HR department?

Thanks for participating in the poll! If you have any other thoughts on this topic, please feel free to share them in the comments. I’ll post the results in a week or so.

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{ 11 comments }

Richard July 12, 2012 at 8:52 am

I could see being a friend connection with someone in HR, but unless that person reports to you – directly or indirectly.

Scott Ziegler July 12, 2012 at 9:14 am

Thanks for the post Sharlyn – inspired me to ask the same question regarding teachers and principals.
Scott Ziegler recently posted..Should Principals have Facebook Friends at Work?

Brendan July 12, 2012 at 9:20 am

No, I wouldn’t friend anyone in HR or my boss. I’m even reluctant to friend peers at work, even though I don’t vent about work on Facebook or post about the rare adventure that I might have.

I had professors in grad school who had a rule about never friending a current student and I thought that was a good rule.

Facebook, as it stands now, doesn’t allow you to sort relationships like you do in real life – work friends, college friends, family, etc – so when you accept that connection then all of your interests, photos, posts, other friends become accessible.

If I friend someone from HR and that person sees that I am friends with someone who left the company badly, maybe in an ugly way, maybe involved in current legal proceedings against the company, does that hurt my reputation? Does it drag my Facebook wall into court as evidence?

john jorgensen July 12, 2012 at 9:36 am

I think the same rules apply to social media as in “real life”. With as much time spent at work, it is hard not to be friends with co-workers. You just need to use common sense and discretion in understanding what is proper based on relationships and culture.

John@PGISelfDirected July 12, 2012 at 10:06 am

Unless it’s a page about our company, I wouldn’t want to “friend” my supervisor or even my colleagues. Facebook has become an avenue for procrastination these days and if you log on to the social media site during work then you’ve definitely got a problem.
John@PGISelfDirected recently posted..Can an IRA be Co-Jointly Owned? (Remember the “I”)! (VIDEO)

Sharlyn Lauby July 12, 2012 at 11:25 am

Thank you everyone for the comments. One thing I’ve learned over the years is social media is very personal – who you connect with and what you choose to share. If nothing else, people should think about it very carefully and do what they feel is best for them.

Amy July 12, 2012 at 4:46 pm

I keep two FB profiles – One is very open and I’m always happy to “friend” my colleagues on staff – managers, peers, other HR folks, whathaveyou. I post job opening (to encourage employee referrals) and little tidbits about events near our offices. The other is locked down, private and only for my close personal contacts. Never the twain shall meet.

Francene July 12, 2012 at 6:09 pm

I’m in HR and my answer is “Nope” – Facebook is for friends/family. I connect with my professional colleagues on LinkedIn

Garrick Weaver July 12, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Personally I believe in the limitless power of networking many not just for job hunters. The reality is that with the Web being as powerful as it is everyone should bing google msn yahoo etc themselves at least once a month. More and more information is coming out about how FB and others are sharing information and it is YOUR responsibility to manage your settings and your connections, even when you do information can still get out. When you invite friends on FB it is different than connections on LI. I accept invites on LinkedIn from people who I worked with hired and even a few who were terminated while I worked with them and am always happy to help professionally. On a personal level I believe FB is not a place for HR and staff to connect

Sharlyn Lauby July 13, 2012 at 9:38 am

Thanks to everyone for sharing your perspectives on this. It’s great to see so much discussion!

@Amy – Not sure how I feel about two profiles. I’m glad it works so well for you. I think it would be a challenge to maintain.

I have one profile – and I do Facebook friend my clients. Together, we share a little piece of our personal lives as well as a little business. As a small business owner, my personal and professional life is very intertwined so it’s nice to connect with other people who are the same.

@Francene – I lean toward initial contact via LinkedIn. Then as I get to know people, I will friend them on Facebook.

I think there was a period in time when people were trying to use Facebook aggressively for business purposes, but I’m not sure that exists anymore. If it does, the effort is more casual.

@Garrick – Totally agree that anyone on social media needs to understand and manage their privacy settings. It’s a win for everyone.

Job Seeker August 8, 2012 at 5:56 pm

NO. Like Amy said, I can trust professionals to handle their affairs. The trouble is not with the professional’s choice of blending personal and professional relationships, the trouble is with Facebook’s constant privacy invasions due to their “hacking”, changes, etc. which leads to too many avenues for legal discrimination. Yet FB is a glorified version of Myspace which really served no purpose for communication.
People know how to find me if they want to, and believe me-they do.
However,
I come from a tiny town and high school with known people who commit malicious acts because, well they have nothing better to do. The trouble is that their maliciousness is only known to the person who actually knew them; not the professionals cyberspying on potential job candidates.
So those unauthorized pictures, false, irrelevant and inappropriate rumors have tendencies come up.
Some of my personal contacts (I was expected to “friend” only for high school reunion purposes) have posted offensive material on my wall before I knew to disable that activity.
Can professionals be on Facebook 24-7 to babysit their account from this?
There is quite a bit of libel, defamation and slander that can occur which wrecks complete havoc on someone’s welfare unnecessarily because of some irrelevant “episode” that happened 10-20 years ago.
To some in one part of the country, being a “slut” is wearing bright red lipstick. To others, bright red lipstick is just a fashion statement. The world “slut” is jargon in one area which can be inappropriately taken out of context.
People cite “government invasion” as a reason for privacy settings. “Government” anything is the great alibi to personal contacts.
I find social media to hold very damaging consequences and I strongly hope that professionals are taking it’s contents with a grain of salt.

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