By Eric B. Meyer
When I first began drafting social media policies and offering social media training for clients, I preached that “friending” the boss was a bad idea.
The lawyer in me was concerned for two reasons:
- Facebook’s informality would facilitate behavior from a supervisor that a company would not otherwise tolerate in the workplace;
- If a supervisor knew about, but failed to report, employee actions on Facebook that would violate an anti-harassment policy, the company could lose a valuable discrimination defense.
So, what do non-lawyers have to say about friending the boss on Facebook?
Privacy the issue for not friending the boss
According to a few recent surveys highlighted in this article from Alexis Kleinman at The Huffington Post, the nays have it there too.
According to a survey of 722 people conducted by survey site SodaHead and anonymous feedback site YouTell, 81 percent say you should not be Facebook friends with your boss. Slightly more men than women said it was OK to friend your boss, and those age 25 to 34 (college-age kids when Facebook first appeared on campuses) were the most comfortable with the practice. A parallel survey that asked whether or not you should be Facebook friends with your co-workers was split: 55 percent said yes and 45 percent said no.”
The Huffington Post article cites online privacy as the big reason employees choice not friend the boss. It also references a bill passed in the Oregon House of Representatives that prohibits employers from forcing their workers to friend or “like” them on Facebook. The intent of this bill appears to be the same as laws recently passed in other states, barring employers from demanding that applicants and employees divulge their social media login credentials.
Collaboration that outweighs legal risks
As I’ve said many times before, I get that forcing employees to turn over online passwords is stupid. However, these absurd employer requests are few and far between.
However, in certain workplaces there is utility in social media collaboration between employees and supervisors that outweighs that outweighs the legal risks. Therefore, states and cities that insist upon legislating a problem that does not exist should be careful not to pass overly broad laws that actually hamstring workplace productivity.
This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.