Who Should CEO’s, Managers and HR Pros Be Friends with on Facebook?

Jessica Lee Jessica Lee, Social Media, Social Recruiting

Raise your hand if you’re on Facebook! Meeee! And you, and you too, and 200 million others as well, except for those in China who at the moment cannot access Facebook whatsoever including even accessing my company’s lovely and harmless careers page on Facebook. (Shameless plug!) But I digress…

Lately, I’ve noticed a bit of coverage online about whether to be friends on Facebook with coworkers, or should you be friends with your boss on Facebook, or implications of friending/defriending… and while I understand these dilemmas, one particular issue struck me… why are managers “even friending” their staff members on Facebook in theSm-bandwagon1 first place? If you’re unsure of whether to be friends with your boss on Facebook, fine. But what to do if your manager sends you a friend request? Oy. Let’s talk that one through.

I was talking with my CEO the other day, and the issue has come up with other leadership team members for varying social networks, and the topic was simply the proper etiquette for becoming friends or connecting with others on social networks. From my CEO’s perspective, and as a CEO, he’ll accept a Facebook friend request from someone within our organization (and yes, I friended him as soon as I found out he was on Facebook!)… but he won’t personally seek out any “friends” within the company. And his reasons make sense:

  • He doesn’t want to put pressure on them of any sort to have to be his friend.
  • He doesn’t want them to think he’s pursuing them in any inappropriate way. And maybe most importantly…
  • He doesn’t want them to feel like he’s watching them in any way.

My CEO’s logic got me thinking… the same should probably apply to anyone who manages staff and perhaps the same should also go for HR pros too.

Now I know, some of you out there will argue that maybe if your culture is ripe for it and that you’re not a hierarchical organization and therefore, it’s actually okay for a CEO or an HR pro to “friend” employees. It shows you’re open, it shows you’re accessible, it shows you’re cool. I don’t buy that though. I work for one of the flattest organizations ever, it’s extremely non-hierarchical – and I love that about our culture. But at the end of the day? Even in a flat organization, you can be friendly with staff, but I’d argue as a CEO, as a manager, and as an HR pro, you can’t really be friends with staff. You have decision making authority, you hold a position of power, and you can influence. And that does not put you on even footing with staff.

When I think about myself, I signed up for Facebook initially to use it as a spy tool. Seriously. And I still use Facebook today to look at candidates and business contacts. And I know the debate rages on about whether it’s even legal or appropriate to do such – but that’s not the point of this post. People are becoming more and more aware that many employers are “watching” their staff and looking at potential employees via social networks… and that simply makes it really hard for staff not to feel like they’re being watched no matter how open and friendly a culture you have.

My advice? Be prudent. Don’t try to be everyone’s friend and follow the lead of my CEO. Be friendly, yes. Accepting a friend request, sure. Friending your staff? No. Let’s just not go there. It’s unavoidable; they’re going to wonder if you’re watching them…