4 Social Media Etiquette Tips for Workplace Friendships

Social platforms are rewriting the rules of networking and changing the face of friendship. Let’s face it: Whether we're checking photos of our friends on Facebook from our work computers or updating our status from our smartphones, few of us get through a day on the job without perusing, posting or liking something. These days, a solid understanding of social media etiquette is essential in all walks of life — and that extends to workplace friendships.  

Minding “social” manners takes on a new twist in the social media world. To add or not to add bosses and coworkers as friends is a particularly tricky conundrum. Will we overstep a boundary if we do? Will we ruin our chances of a promotion or tick off the accounts guy if we don’t?  

The following social media etiquette tips may help you decide whether — and to what degree — to friend colleagues. 

1. See it from all sides

Deciding whether to friend a boss or coworker often boils down to determining how the colleague in question may react.    

Has he or she dropped any hints about being friends on Facebook? How many other colleagues has he or she accepted friend requests from? Is there an acceptable time frame for working together or degree of interaction that makes it OK to click that “Add Friend” button?  

2. Err on the side of caution

Sixty-eight percent of senior managers polled in an OfficeTeam survey said they wouldn’t be comfortable being friended by their bosses, and 62 percent would feel equally uneasy being asked to be friends on Facebook by the people they manage. On the flipside, half would feel comfortable being friended by coworkers.

When in doubt — especially when it comes to the boss — it may be best to err on the side of caution. Holding back on sending a request is far better social media etiquette than having one ignored or accepted out of politeness. 

3. Know thy settings (and use them)

Facebook’s privacy features let you censor what any John Doe surfing your profile sees or choose what you make available to friends of friends — in a matter of clicks. Unfortunately, when Cint USA and Trend Micro Privacy polled Facebook users in August 2013, 24 percent admitted they didn’t utilize the platform’s privacy settings regularly. If you fall into this category and are inexperienced when it comes to adjusting your privacy settings, ask a friend or family member who frequents social media to help.   

4. Filter friends

If you do decide to let coworkers into your virtual world, it’s perfectly acceptable — in fact entirely sensible — to create filters and friend lists. Few of us would be comfortable having our business contacts viewing all our rants and raves or the boss reading our Saturday night-on-the-town posts on a Sunday morning.

A great way to prevent this (besides steering clear of Facebook after a crazy night) is by setting a permission request so you can approve photos and posts that others tag you in before they appear on your timeline.  

Another social media etiquette helper:

Keeping your social media etiquette up to scratch isn’t as daunting as it may seem — and doing so could save your reputation. For further cues on minding your digital p’s and q’s, read Robert Half’s guide, Business Etiquette: The New Rules in a Digital Age.