Should I add my boss on social media? Elaine Varelas discusses the importance of professional boundaries

How to treat connections on social media can be a bit of a gray area. What do you do when someone who supervises you also wants to see your out-of-work activity? Elaine Varelas discusses the importance of professional boundaries when it comes to adding your boss on social media.

Ask the Job Doc.
Ask the Job Doc. –Boston.com

Q: My boss wants to follow me on Instagram and add me on Facebook and I’m afraid to say no. Is that okay to do, or should I let him in? What about other work people?

A: All social media contacts are optional. No one should feel compelled to allow anyone access to any social media platforms. While it might be flattering that your boss wants to follow you because you lead such an exciting life, there should be professional boundaries. Unfortunately, your boss crossed them, which puts you in the position of saying, “Thanks for asking, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. Everything I’ve read professionally says to connect with your boss and colleagues on LinkedIn, but not to connect on personal platforms that expose more of your personal life.” If they want to know where you read it, you can tell them it was written by the Job Doc!

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You should allow yourself to feel very comfortable drawing personal and professional boundaries. Though these lines are getting more blurred as personal and professional lives cross over, employees don’t want to be in a position to have personal information used against them in professional situations – and this is information managers shouldn’t have had access to in any case.

Colleagues and peers often do become close, personal friends. Use your best judgment when you decide to let those boundaries blur and allow colleagues or peers into your personal life. This is no different than giving someone the keys to your house. There are some people you would grant access, and some you wouldn’t. You shouldn’t feel compelled or bullied into giving anyone that much access to your life.

Even with peer pressure, understand that you can say no. This is particularly true for new employees who come into an organization and are told, “Well, we all access everyone’s everything.” You can answer back, “Thank you for the information, I will think about that,” and delay any kind of response while you assess the situation for yourself. If there’s a group text or some other group conversation, you can happily join that to share information.

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If you are the marketing person for your firm and your boss wants to follow the corporate Instagram or the work you do on a public-facing Facebook page, that’s entirely different. These accounts should be designed to reflect your professional realm. However, your personal accounts are your personal accounts.

If you do give access, think about whether your boss will approve of everything you have posted on your profile. Will it influence his opinion of you as a professional? And is there anything to be gained versus what there is at risk? Remember that your boss won’t be your boss for life and you can always add them after leaving your organization. If you do choose to add your boss to your personal accounts, consider the ramifications – and know how to block, mute, delete, filter, and anything else you may need to do to become private once more.