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Friending Coworkers on Facebook -- UPDATED

Anonymous asks:

At the risk of appearing as if I am an incompetent manager…what do you do when you think a direct report is lying to you – and your only suspicion is based on a Facebook status?

A direct report of mine friended me on Facebook (that’s cause for a whole separate post). When I accepted his request, I blocked him from viewing most everything about me. He, however, did not do the same, which means I know when he’s at the bar at midnight on Monday night.

When he then “asks” – to work from home on Tuesday due to some non-bar-related reason…I feel he’s lying to me. But I don’t know how to go about addressing this. This ee and I have had our differences in the past and I finally feel as if we have come to an understanding. The ee’s work is slightly above par for his level, and while personally difficult at times, I have little cause for complain when it comes to his performance.

Part of me thinks that it’s just working from home and this isn’t a big deal. But another part of me thinks that a) he’s possibly abusing the system, b) he’s possibly lying to me, and c) I’m being taken for a ride.

Should I address this, and if so, how can I do it in a non-accusing manner?

In general, I am against friending any coworkers on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. I use LinkedIn for professional contacts and the other networking applications for personal. There are couple exceptions for coworkers whom I also consider friends. I mean literally two exceptions.

In this case, I don't think you should address this particular incident with your employee. He gets his work done at an above-average standard. If he gets his work done from home and it is acceptable to work from home on occasion, then his reason for wanting to do so shouldn't really matter. It doesn't appear that he has excessive requests to work from home, so I don't think there is a problem. I didn't always tell my boss the whole truth or even a partial truth when I ask for time off or to work from home, even if I had a legitimate reason. My boss did not need to know every detail of my life.

The problem really arises from your employee's stupidity in friending his boss and not blocking his boss from viewing certain things on his profile. If I were you, I would unfriend him. He is a good employee and knowing more than you should about his life is going to taint your professional relationship with him. It looks like it is already causing you to resent him, or at least to revert to a past negative relationship, which had been resolved.

If I had been in your shoes, and because I maintain a very casual relationship with my own employee and all of my coworkers, when he asked to work from home, I would have jokingly said, "This doesn't have anything to do with the fact that you were out drinking past midnight last night, does it? Ha, ha. It's fine if you work from home today."

Anonymous responded:

The way the employee "asked" to WFH was by email to me at 8am on the day in question. Employee lives about one hr from the office. Employee knows I do not get in to the office until around 9am. The email also included an explanation of why there was a need to WFH that just seemed superfluous and unnecessary (and also totally unvalidate-able).

When I saw the email, I was immediately pissed because at that time it seemed ridiculous for me to say, "No, you can't WFH, get your ass in here." I felt I was kind of set up in that regard and given no option to say no. So I did what I usually do, which is avoid and did respond at all.

When I was initially asked to friend the ee on FB, I hesitated, but didn’t see how I could say no. I would like to unfriend this ee and tell them ahead of time why I’m doing so, but I can’t seem to find the right non-petty reason. Is it sufficient to say, “knowing more about your personal life than necessary may taint our professional relationship?” Also, I do not do LinkedIn so I can’t suggest that as an alternative. In fact, the ee sent me a request asking me to friend them there but since I’m not already on that, it was easy to say “No, I don’t do that at all.” 

Last, this ee has no qualms at all about going to my boss or even one level above that to vent, complain, talk, solicit, etc etc so I am feeling even more need to tread carefully than usual. I don’t want this to turn into a blowout – which it might, given my diva ee – or get escalated above me.

Do you have any additional suggestions for Anonymous? It sounds like a tricky situation to be in.

Comments

usedtobeme

I used to have to monitor emails for my old job. I was part of the internet and email police. The things I saw ranged from inappropriate to talking behind people's backs and eventually I dubbed everyone as an overall douchebag. It effected my ability to work with many of my co-workers because of the nature of the job and the fact that I couldn't just walk up and say to anyone hey dipshit, don't send xxx from work email.

The phrase "too much information" speaks volumes and having TIM opens the door to too many emotions, including but not limited to resentment, betrayal, befuddle and out and out bewilderment along with the old OMG YOU DID WHAT? coupled with the inability to say OMG YOU DID WHAT?!?

It also makes for icky at the office. I'm totally separate in home/work life. I wish some of my boss' were.

leah

i don't have anything to add, other than to note this is an excellent response.

Sara

If you don't want to get into it with the whole friending/unfriending business, there's an option.

When you go to your Facebook homepage, scroll all the way down and hit the "Options" link. You can enter your direct report's name in the "Less About These Friends" box. As that section says, "You will only get stories about these people if nothing else is available."

So if your Facebook friends are relatively active, you'll stop seeing anything about your direct report. Woo! (:

jo

Unfriend him and start documenting shit. If he asks why you are unfriending him be frank, knowing his personal information was making you uncomfortable.

Also make sure you know your company's flexible work arrangement policies, if they have one. If you feel he's abusing WFH, you can ask for more notice if he's planning on working from home. I work in a place where working from home isn't common so I can't say what it is like in your industy, but it seems like WFH isn't that conducive to working on a team. (Again just from my non-WFH perspective).

You seem intimidated by your role as his boss. I don't think you should be. I know that it can be hard to be the boss of someone you are having a hard time managing (luckily mine quit before I had to have a "talk"). As to his venting to the higher ups, that can actually work against him. If he's seen as a complainer/whiner, he'll never get anywhere. Bosses like problem solvers not gripers.

Do you feel like your job is on rocky ground? It seems like you might. Is there a reason for that or just general neuroses? If there's a reason, obviously work to fix that. Keep your boss in the loop on how things are going with this employee. If you're having challenges with him, solicit your boss for guidance. Theoretically that's one of the things he's there for.

jo

Depending on your relationship with your boss, you may also want to let him/her know you are having trouble with this employee and then give him/her the plan of how you intend to deal with employee in the future.

Anony

Thanks, all, for the input.

Sara - I did not know that option existed but have put it into place! Thanks!

Others - I am somewhat intimidated by this ee because he has screwed me over in the past by going over my head inappropriately. Also, there have been tears involved when 'crucial conversations' have been held. I want to avoid that at all costs, cuz wow is that uncomfortable.

Also, I trust my boss approximately 49% of the time, so I didn't see that venue as a good option.

Hopefully, though, now that it was just announced that the ee is not reporting to me any more (due to org changes and nothing personal), I can pretend this never happened.

jo

Ahh that's the best answer yet... just let things alone and they work themselves out the best way possible! :)

Bruce

I use the Coworkers app on Facebook to manage working relationships separately from friend. You can just add people to your professional network if you don't want to be their full fledged Facebook friend. Just search for "coworkers" using Facebook search.

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