The Bagg Group ponders the practice of “friending” employees on Facebook


Often hiring authorities and department managers ask The Bagg Group whether they should friend employees on Facebook.

They wonder if there’s a benefit to social networking with staff. Is it a way to show interest and build a collegial relationship, while also ensuring employees aren’t posting anything that could hurt their company’s reputation?

Or is it the virtual equivalent of gate-crashing your employee’s party?

Since Facebook launched in 2004, there hasn’t been corporate consensus on the answer. At The Bagg Group, our staffing solution experts hear mixed opinions from clients across the GTA and from candidates, whether they are looking for full-time employment, contract work or temporary placements. The feedback we receive mirrors the range of survey findings.

Not surprisingly, for the most part, employees prefer that employers keep out of their social networks. A recent report in the Globe and Mail showed that 69 out of 100 employees don’t want to socialize with their bosses, online or off. Moreover, 56 out of 100 employees don’t want to friend their co-workers either.

The majority of managers responding to that survey said they also would prefer not to mix work with online networking. The study said 72 out of 100 senior executives are uncomfortable about being friended on Facebook by those they manage.

However, there are many who are of another opinion. A different survey, carried out by Deloitte, showed that 60 % of managers believe that people make their private lives public on Facebook and Twitter. These managers speculate that employees are spilling the beans about their work situation, and so their postings should be monitored to make sure they aren’t broadcasting information they shouldn’t.

This same survey showed that, overall, 53% of employees believe that what they say on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter is simply none of their boss’ business. That’s the view of 63% of those in the 18- to 34-years-old bracket.

Yet, one-third of employees admit that they never consider how their employer will be affected when they post material online. Interestingly, almost 75% of employees admit that social networking sites make employers more vulnerable to damaged reputations.

Simply put, there’s no definitive right or wrong answer that applies to every organization. For companies that are unsure which direction to follow, the best step is to open the question up to a candid, respectful internal debate. As always, we urge our clients to talk to employees about issues that affect them so as to foster strong, positive, workplace relationships.

Once you have a policy, make sure everyone understands your rationale for it. It’s counter-productive to have employees make assumptions about why they’re expected to friend, or not friend, their managers on social network sites. We know from experience that when you don’t tell people why you are introducing a particular policy, they’ll invent their own reasons – and these are rarely accurate or flattering.

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