Work life and Facebook – it seems like a never-ending discussion topic nowadays. There are many things to consider in regards to your personal and career brand. Yet so many people are either unaware of them or do not fully understand the ramifications of the content they might share online. For millions of people, this includes sharing their page and their personal lives with their coworkers. Many people feel that coworkers are just “buddies from work” and all is well as long as the bosses aren’t their Facebook friends. If this describes your thoughts about coworkers as Facebook friends, you may be in for a rude awakening.
As a general rule of thumb, I advise people to not invite or accept coworkers as Facebook friends unless their posts, pictures, and videos are not deeply personal and are always clean, upbeat, and in good taste. Some people do choose to invite coworkers, managers, and other professionals because they are intentionally using Facebook to leverage their career brand. This is a great way to use Facebook and I highly encourage it.
However, my general rule applies to those who use Facebook moreso for personal use – which seems to be the majority of people. It is for those who typically friend their coworkers without much thought. I recognize that your best friend and someone you trust with your life might be your coworker and Facebook friend. I am not necessarily talking about those people but moreso any coworker who does not fall in that “best friend” category. People who friend coworkers should be aware of the serious issues that could arise.
Does Your Facebook Content Look Like This?
*“I hate Mondays!”, “Why am I at work when I would rather be somewhere else?”, “What a long day… wish it was over”, “Not looking forward to going back to the grind tomorrow”, “Can’t wait to the head to the bar to get my drunk on!” “Sometimes I just want to beat the crap out of people”, “I swear my life sucks”, “Why is everyone a backstabber?” (or anything even remotely similar).
*Drama related content – telling the world about your arguments with others or sharing details about all the different problems you might have.
*Arguing or using profane language.
*Videos, photos and articles that are in bad taste (profane or sexually explicit content).
*“Liking” pages that are in bad taste (ex: “yourname likes I hate my job!”)
Consider the Ramifications:
*Many employees talk and gossip on a regular basis. They can’t help themselves. Who are they sharing your content with? Your boss? Another coworker who might share it with your boss? Maybe. How do you know they aren’t?
*A coworker might not intentionally share what you post but it gets out anyway due to frustration. Typical scenario: Boss asks your coworker to stay late to work on a project and to ask for your help. Coworker inadvertently says, “She won’t help, she’s been posting all over Facebook how she can’t wait to get out of here”. The boss makes a mental note of it and considers that and other things he might have heard when evaluating your potential for advancement in the company. Potential leaders in a company should not be posting statements like that on Facebook! It gives the impression that they don’t really like their job.
*A coworker Facebook friend gets promoted and now is your boss or is a manager elsewhere in the company – a person who might now have a say about your future potential with the company. The facts are, you can be a model employee at work but people typically cannot separate what they learn about on you on Facebook from your great work on the job. Careless postings on Facebook can shatter your strong career brand no matter how great your performance is at work.
*You take a sick day. You go out to lunch and then check in at the restaurant on Foursquare, which subsequently posts on your Facebook page. Or maybe you just mention your lunch in an unrelated Facebook conversation that evening. Either way, your integrity is now in question. Situations like this can also cause you to be fired!
*You are at work “doing your job”. But throughout the day, your Facebook page is somehow publishing a stream of updates from Farmville, Mafia Wars, Frontierville and results from a few random quizzes. Your coworker Facebook friend notices this and talks about it at the water cooler. It eventually gets back to your boss. These kinds of things really do happen and this is another example of a situation that can cause you to be terminated from employment.
It’s Time for Damage Control
I can’t stress enough how important it is to be cautious about adding coworkers to your Facebook page. Consider how much easier and less stressful it would be to separate your personal life from your professional life!
If you have not been careful about the quality of your content and you have coworkers as Facebook friends, you should start doing a bit of damage repair.
It is not necessary to go in and “unfriend” your coworkers as they have already read your content. Your best course of action is to completely change your online image and work hard at reversing the damage for at least a month or two. Leverage yourself and post only high-level content that will change the perception that others (specifically, your coworkers!) have of you.
I do recommend deleting controversial content that already exists on your page. But spend the majority of your time concentrating on building a strong, positive image of you. Your coworkers will notice the change and their image of you will start to change. After a month or two, I would remove all your coworkers from your page and simply explain that you want to keep your personal and professional life separate. Trust me, having your coworkers trust and respect you is far more important than having them as Facebook friends!
Jessica Simko is a seasoned senior level Human Resources professional with over 15 years of experience in all facets of Human Resources Management. She is a Career Coach and Consultant specializing in helping all levels of career professionals create, build, and maintain a strong career brand in the corporate work culture. She strives to help people connect their passions with their jobs and then to leverage their brand to maximize their potential throughout their careers. She offers a wide variety of career branding articles and tips at Career Branding Guide where she also offers coaching and consulting services based on the Career Branding Guide model. Feel free to connect with her on: