Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is a useful tool for staying connected, but it can also open the door to problems if the personal information you share on it gets into the wrong hands. In fact, workers are often advised to be careful about the things they post, especially those whose colleagues are privy to that information. But while it's common practice to be friends with your co-workers on Facebook, friending your boss is a whole different ball game. Friending your boss could mean putting your manager in an uncomfortable position, and possibly risking your relationship in the process.
But what happens when your boss is the one who friends you on Facebook? At that point, you're sort of stuck. If you don't accept, you could wind up offending your boss, and that's not good. But if you accept that request, you could end up being forced into a situation where you're limited to the information you share, or, worse yet, wind up feeling the backlash when you post something that doesn't sit well with your manager.
It's a tough spot to be in. The solution, however, may boil down to an honest in-person conversation.
When you can't say yes but can't say no
Some people use Facebook sparingly -- to get family updates, share pictures, and occasionally solicit advice on things like home contractors, travel destinations, and restaurants. If you fall into that same boat, and you're certain that the things you post can in no way be construed as controversial, then you may be OK to accept your manager's friend request. But if you're the type who tends to blast political rants, or who enjoys sharing details of your social life, then saying yes to that request could be a dangerous move.
The answer? Don't accept -- but sit down with your boss and have a conversation about it in person. Explain that while you're flattered that he or she wants to get to know you beyond your office-based interactions, you're just not comfortable sharing certain opinions or details of your life with the person you report to. With any luck, your manager will understand where you're coming from (and perhaps even recognize that he or she shouldn't have made that request in the first place).
At the same time, suggest ways outside of Facebook for you and your boss to connect and grow your relationship. Ask to have lunch, or suggest an activity you mutually enjoy. If you and your manager connect on a deeper level, it could help you in the long run.
Of course, if you do feel compelled to accept your boss' friend request, use it an opportunity to rethink your approach to social media. For the most part, that means keeping your profile clean in terms of language and photos, and also, removing old photos or posts that paint you in a not-so-positive light.
It's a good thing to get to know your boss, and possibly even become friends. But much of the time, maintaining some distance on social media is probably your best bet.