Dear Matt: My boss wants to connect with me on Facebook. What do I do? Should I say no or yes? Why does she want to do this, do you think? Please help!
Matt: This is becoming a popular topic in this social media-crazed world. Stories of workers being fired or disciplined for Facebook use are popping up all over. Recently, a Swiss woman told her employer that she was suffering a migraine and needed to stay home and rest in a darkened room. That day the company discovered she was on Facebook - and on a computer when she said she had to lie in a darkened room. The company said her trust was destroyed and terminated her. One job seeker I know said that a potential employer asked to be her friend on Facebook soon after an interview - but before a job was offered.
This re-emphasizes the importance of managing your online reputation and making sure your personal life doesn't affect your professional life.
So, how do you tell your boss you don't want to connect on Facebook, and still spin it in a positive way? If you are uncomfortable connecting with your boss on Facebook, just politely decline and let them know that you prefer to keep Facebook for your personal circle. Then indicate that you keep your professional network on LinkedIn, says Lisa Erickson, executive search director at Kenwood Group.
"If you are not already connected to this boss via LinkedIn, or don't currently have a profile of your own, prepare one and then promptly invite your boss to join you there," says Erickson. "LinkedIn has many features that echo Facebook, yet can help you maintain a serious professional image."
As for the motives behind connecting with you on Facebook, your boss may be trying to further connect with you, in which case, be flattered, says Erickson. The boss may be new to social networking, and may be naive enough to not understand the short- or long-term implication of a Facebook connection. They may be the one who has something embarrassing that someday gets shared with the world. There is also the possibility that this person is planning to use the connection for something more manipulative in the future - perhaps to monitor employees and get more into their personal life than they should be - just like the employer who got fired for calling in sick and using Facebook.
Matt Krumrie is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, and has nine years of experience reporting on the employment industry. This column will answer readers' questions. E-mail questions or subject ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.