Five ways to make sure you’re not too Facebook friendly with co-workers

Senior managers feel more freaked out by Facebook friend requests sent by bosses or direct reports.

Sixty-eight per cent say they are uncomfortable with receiving friend requests from supervisors, and 62% get uneasy about receiving the requests from employees they supervise, according to a recent survey by OfficeTeam, a staffing service specialising in the temporary placement of office and administrative support professionals.

That’s up from four years ago, when less than half of managers surveyed felt wary of such requests on the social media network: 47% were uncomfortable about seeing their manager’s name on a friend request, and 48% were uncomfortable about a request that came from a direct report.

The survey specifically addresses Facebook as opposed to LinkedIn, another social media network used more for building a network of business contacts and passing along content of professional interest. The survey gathered responses of more than 1,000 senior managers at US companies with 20 or more employees.

Facebook has more than one billion users worldwide, according to its most recent quarterly earnings report. LinkedIn claimed 238 million users in its earnings report.

Respondents were more comfortable connecting with peers as opposed to those above and below them on the organisational chart. The survey showed that 49% were not comfortable receiving requests from peers, an increase of eight percentage points from 2009. In the recent survey, 40% were “somewhat comfortable” and 10% “very comfortable” connecting with work peers.

The survey showed that the highest level of discomfort came from receiving a request from one’s boss: 46% said they were “not comfortable at all” with such a request.

“People have different comfort levels when it comes to social media, so it’s best not to blanket colleagues with friend requests,” Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, said in a news release. “Along with being selective about who you ask to connect with online, you should always post prudently. You don’t want to share information that could reflect poorly on you.”

The OfficeTeam news release offers tips to determine if connecting with a co-worker on Facebook is a good idea:

  • Follow your boss’s lead. Let the supervisor set the tone for office social media relationships.
  • Do your research. Check to see whether co-workers have other employees as part of their networks. Some might keep their lists small and might not want to share status updates with a large group of colleagues.
  • When in doubt, ask. The old-fashioned way – connecting through conversation first – is an excellent way to gauge a co-worker’s interest in a friend request.
  • Check your profile. Before you send requests to those you work with, make sure you have a handle on what they’ll be able to see.
  • Don’t give in to peer pressure. You are not obligated to be social media friends with your co-workers. You can say so, or use privacy settings to control who views the content you decide to post.

Managers also said they were uncomfortable about receiving requests from clients (74%) or vendors (78%).
Related CGMA Magazine content:

What’s the Risk? Survey Shows Increased Focus on Reputation”: Businesses are placing an increased focus on reputational risk, according to a new CGMA survey, as a result of market demands for transparency, reputational failures at leading companies, and the rise of social media.
Neil Amato ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.