Social networking was never meant for the workplace. But here we are, privy to what our officemate ate over the weekend, our manager’s family reunion, and Janet in HR’s new cat.
While it’s nice to get casual with colleagues and see your boss as a fun-loving foodie instead of, well, just your boss, social media—which blurs the line between personal and professional—can be virtual landmines of mishaps, even when we think we’re being careful.
We’re sure there’s plenty of books on the subject but let’s get real: you haven’t read them because you’re too busy posting photos of your sleeping dogs. (And we don’t blame you, because, dogs!)
To save you time, we’ve come up with some pointers to help prevent office networking blunders, both major and minor, that could lead to Big Problems, or at the very least, some severe awkwardness.
Opt for professional networks
If you’re wary about mixing work and social networking—and we certainly don’t blame you if you are—it may be best to skip informal networks like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat and instead opt for LinkedIn and Twitter (if you use it for professional purposes). When coworkers and managers want to friend or follow you, tell them you prefer to reserve social networks like Facebook for friends and family and direct them to your professional accounts.
Friend and follow wisely.
If you do decide to interact with coworkers on social media, it’s ok to be selective about it. Workplaces are populated by people we would absolutely hang out with IRL and those we wouldn’t. Remember, you don’t have to accept every friend request and every follow. But also remember that if you’re Facebook friends with everyone in your office except Pete in accounting and Janet in HR, you risk alienating them IRL, which can lead to some prickly situations.
Be mindful of what you post.
Social media are hotbeds of politics, religion, duck-lipped selfies, NSFW memes, work complaints, and general inappropriateness. If you’ve connected with colleagues on social media, be mindful of what you post. The coworker in the cube next to yours—not to mention your boss—may not appreciate your political rant or beer pong photos from last weekend. A good rule of thumb? If you wouldn’t want your family to see it, don’t post it.
Don’t get complacent.
Don’t think that people at work aren’t paying attention to your posts. Just because they’re not liking or commenting on them doesn’t mean they’re not seeing them. What does that mean? It means that if you started out careful about what you’re posting, continue being careful. (Or if you haven’t been careful to begin with, start being careful now.) When you let your guard down, things can get messy.
You may think you’ve mastered your privacy settings, but you really haven’t.
Sure, you can accept your coworkers’ friend requests and then selectively filter what you share via privacy settings but keep the following in mind: If you’re playing hooky with a mutual friend of a colleague—or, worse yet, your boss—and you’re tagged in a photo at the ballgame when you called in sick, you could very well end up in his/her newsfeed. Your manager may not be able to see your overly enthusiastic TGIF meme, but when your mutual work friend shares it, s/he could definitely see it.
Cover your digital footsteps.
The ballgame when you called in sick. Inviting everyone from your department to a party except a select few. Telling your boss you’ll be working all weekend and then sharing photos of your weekend adventures. When it comes to social media, there’s any number of things that could go wrong when you’re doing the wrong thing. Take some time to think about what you’re posting and cover your digital footsteps.
Don’t post about work.
It’s only natural to post about work—and let’s be honest, it’s mostly complaints about work—since we’re there so much. But If you’ve connected with officemates on social media, unless you’re posting that you work with “the best people EVER and the best boss EVER” (in which case, where do you work and can we crash the party?) your safest bet is to skip posting about work entirely.
You’re the boss, so proceed with caution.
The same goes if you’re the boss. Your employees may not want to connect with you over social media, so friending them on Facebook may put them in an awkward situation. And if you’re posting personal thoughts and photos—and who doesn’t?—it may change your work persona.
Limit posting and commenting while you’re at work.
Speaking of work, remember to limit your time on social media while you’re there. Because once you’ve connected with colleagues, they can see that instead of finishing up that report you owe them, you’re posting selfies, sharing memes, and OMG’ing about your best friend’s new puppy. Reel it in until quittin’ time. (Or, at the very least, just be a creeper and stay silent.)