Should you 'friend' the boss?

Plenty of experts have warned us against 'friending' the boss on Facebook, so why do so many of us continue to do it?

A recent survey found that one in three Australian workers said they felt comfortable being “friends” with their boss on a social network.

Drilling down a bit further, 63 per cent said they didn't mind being connected to colleagues on personal social networking sites; a third or 34 per cent said they were comfortable being connected to people they manage; and 22 per cent were even comfortable being connected to their clients.

But the question is should they?  It’s a tricky point but some career commentators, like the people at Monster blog say it may even have some benefits.

“If you’re already friends with your boss and other colleagues on Facebook, letting them know that you’ve joined a professional network (one that’ll help you develop your career and connect with other people in your field) will benefit you. It shows you take your career seriously. Considering the other things many people put on their Facebook walls, it sort of seems like the last thing a person should be worried about … Bosses (and HR folks, and so on) are, in most cases, human beings. They are people who are managing their careers, just like we are. They live in the same world we do. They have the same concerns about career maintenance that we do. And they connect to networks the same way we do.”

But there are some obvious problems, and personal branding expert Dan Schawbel believes it’s fraught with dangers.  “The second you ‘friend’ your boss, you have to change the way you use Facebook. If you forget and say something bad about the company, it can be very dangerous.”

And let us not forget the growing number of people being sacked for stuff that they have posted on sites like Facebook. Surely adding our boss to that list of “friends” just increases that risk.

Here’s a list of positives and negatives about being "friends" with your boss. On one hand, it can bring you and your boss closer together. By letting them know you have a life outside of work, it would be easier to score some extra time for work/life balance. But then, does your boss really have to know all the details of your life outside of work, including what you did on sick days?

While you may be cautious about making a connection, what if your boss has taken the first step and sent you a friend request? How do you decline it without damaging your relationship?


One suggestion is to tell your boss you’re trying to keep your digital personal and professional lives separate. Suggest instead you connect via LinkedIn which is more professional.

Douglas Idugboe at smedio says there is no "one-size-fits-all" answer. It really depends on the kind of relationship you have with your boss. “If it’s very formal and purely professional, I’d advice against risking a Facebook friendship. However, if you share a good personal rapport and you often discuss personal issues with him/her, it may well be worth being Facebook friends … If your boss sent you a Facebook friend which you declined or vice versa, it can be interpreted as a wrong signal.

"Be mindful of what’s out there in your profile about you, take time to adjust your privacy settings, and carefully evaluate what you contribute to online conversations. If you are aware of the implications and you act accordingly, there’s nothing wrong with being Facebook friends with your boss. In fact, it might just help better your working relation with your superiors.”

And for a very different perspective, a reader of the technology blog Mashable says: “There is no obligation for you to have your boss as a Facebook friend, and no obligation for your boss to have a problem with your opposing political views anyway. Remove your boss as a friend if you have the kind of relationship where you’re treated as a slave without independent thought – they’ll probably never notice anyway.”

Have you developed any connections with your boss on Facebook or LinkedIn? How did it affect your working relationship?