Weekly Wrap: Should You Add Your Co-Workers as Facebook Friends?

It’s a question that I’ve heard asked a lot: should you add your co-workers as “friends’ on Facebook?

Good question. But as Miami Herald workplace columnist Cindy Krischer Goodman notes, asking that question really leads to another that really gets to the heart of the matter: “How much of your personal business do you post and do you want your co-worker knowing it?”

That’s an even better question, and it is particularly relevant since Facebook has turned into the “inadvertent” business network for Millennials, as we reported here on TLNT earlier this month. The Miami Herald‘s Goodman focuses on that too, but rather than just focus on the “what” of the study behind our Facebook habits, she also digs into the “why” as well as some cautionary guidance as well.

Too much information?

She writes:

I think it’s interesting that age factors into our Facebook habits when it comes to friending. A new study by Millennial Branding of over 50 million Facebook data points from Identified.com, uncovers that people in Gen-Y (ages 18 to 29) use the social network mostly for personal use, they have an average total friend count of nearly 700 and they add an average of 16 co-workers each as ‘friends’

Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, says that’s where the trouble begins. With so many friends, people forget when the post that a co-worker might be reading what they’re posting. And, because Gen Y stays in a job for an average of only two-years, putting Facebook friends into groups might not be enough: “strengths of relationships become stronger and weaker.”

“Gen-Y needs to be aware that what they publish online can come back to haunt them in the workplace,” Schawbel cautions.”How you present yourself visually and through your status updates can reflect on who you are…it can help you or hurt you.”

One of my colleagues posted on Facebook last weekend that she got a tattoo in a VERY private place. I bet she really doesn’t want a supervisor to read that status update!”

Yes, no one wants their boss to be focused on their latest tattoo, but that’s one of the risks people run when they start blending their personal and professional lives on social networking sites like Facebook — all too often, the wrong people get to see what you would rather they not be seeing. In other words, it’s TMI — “Too Much Information.”

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Dos and don’ts of Facebook friending

There are some things that can be done about this, however, and The Herald’s Goodman passes along these tips from the study’s author about sharing on Facebook:

  • Don’t reveal anything on Facebook that you don’t want to be the topic of office gossip the next morning.
  • Turn on your privacy settings and put your co-workers into a separate group that you can only send certain information to.
  • Have set rules ahead of time as to who you add and who you don’t.
  • Be mindful of your status updates and think twice before you post.
  • Clean up your online image and make it a bit more professional.
  • Never complain about a boss online.

The perils of playing games on the job

Of course, there’s more than the potential perils of  friending co-workers on Facebook in the news this week. Here are other HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of HR and talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • A bigger push to ban employee nicotine use? The movement to stop employees from smoking gets more aggressive, as this story from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (reprinted in the Seattle Times). The story points out that, “Although bans on hiring tobacco users are still relatively rare, dozens of firms — many, but not all, tied to health care or insurance — have imposed round-the-clock smoking restrictions on new hires and threatened staff who smoke with higher benefit costs at best and in some cases termination if they don’t quit. Most employers, even hospitals, ban or limit smoking at work and offer incentives for smokers to quit, but don’t refuse to hire people who use tobacco.”
  • The people behind those big Wall Street bonuses. Ever wonder how those Wall Street bonuses got so large? Well, The New York Times puts the spotlight on the people behind them — compensation consultants. “Compensation consulting is an obscure corner of the management consulting industry,” the Times says, “where practitioners operate in the shadows of high finance. Large Wall Street banks, as well as hedge funds and private equity shops, rely on such consultants to help them structure bonus payouts and devise severance packages, and to provide data on what competitors pay.”
  • Playing games on the job. More workers are eating up computer network bandwidth by playing games on he job — and employers aren’t happy. As this Bloomberg News story from the Seattle Times points out, “A growing proportion of the capacity on corporate networks is being grabbed by employees actively using social-networking applications and file-sharing services, according to Palo Alto Networks, a computer-security company that tracked network usage at more than 1,600 customers between April and November 2011. Active usage — referring to people who play, post and share, rather than passively watch a scrolling feed of posts on Facebook’s site, for example — took up 28 percent of total network bandwidth used on social sites. That’s an increase from 9 percent in the preceding six months.”
  • A “School of Rock” on the job. NPR recently focused on a company that operates a real life “School of Rock” for employees on the job. “It’s 4 o’clock on a Thursday, and instead of sitting in front of computer screens, a group of software engineers and customer service reps from M5 Networks is in the middle of band practice. M5 is a telecom company based in New York City that offers Internet phone services. But it offers something else for its employees: At the Rochester, N.Y., office of M5, workers are gearing up for a company-wide battle of the bands against other branches.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.