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by Vault Careers | March 02, 2010


As social media continues to evolve and become ever more present in the workplace, the boundaries between people's personal and professional lives are becoming ever more fuzzy. Tackling one aspect of this issue, a recent Washington Post article offered advice on "How to decline Facebook friends without offense"—and with specific reference to colleagues. The advice in the piece is all pretty solid, but one thing it doesn't touch on is whyyou wouldn't want that. Here are five reasons. Feel free to submit more, either in the comments field, or via Twitter.

facebook privacy

Your Personal Photos

Most of us wouldn't put a picture of ourselves knocking back shots or posing in a swimsuit on our desks. Many of us, however, have exactly those things hanging around on our Facebook accounts—whether through things we've posted ourselves, or from being tagged in pictures by friends. Keep in mind that giving colleagues full access to your Facebook page includes pictures that you may not want them to see.

Your Relationship Status

Whether it's a married worker not getting the job/promotion because of an assumption over their commitment to the job vs family, or a singleton consistently being asked to work holidays, there are some very good reasons for not cluing your employer/interviewer in on your relationship status. So many, in fact, that it's illegal for an interviewer even to ask. With that in mind, why open yourself up to the possibility of discrimination by not protecting your status at least until you've been given a chance to gauge who you want to reveal such information to in the workplace. (Plus…not revealing you're single may be the one thing stopping that creep two cubicles over from pestering you for a date.)

Your "Non-Work" Persona

No, I'm not suggesting that the person you are at work is completely different than the one you are in your free time, but everyone has boundaries within the workplace that don't apply outside of it. Peruse the status updates of your own contacts for long enough, and you're bound to notice things that you'd consider a warning signal if you were in a hiring situation: people with a penchant for colorful language, a fondness for off-color jokes, or even a tendency to use your social media presence to blow off work-related steam. Like it or not, people will judge the things you post in the same way. So either be careful about what you post, or be prepared to deny access to anyone who doesn’t know you well enough to "get" your updates.

Your Religious/Political Views

No matter what your faith or your political convictions may be, or how strongly you feel about them, they all have one thing in common: the ability to provoke equally strong reactions among people who don't share your beliefs. That can affect everything from your hiring opportunities to your intra-personal relationships within the office. Unless the colleagues you're "friending" know you well enough to not be surprised or offended by anything you're posting , think twice about allowing them unfiltered access to you inner thoughts and beliefs. I mean, you wouldn't go to a company meeting and bring up who you voted for…right?

Your Network

Friending a colleague on Facebook doesn't just connect you to them: it connects your network to theirs. And, just as the "suggestions" feature will start throwing out other colleagues to connect to, you'll also start showing up in that same feature on the pages of your colleague's contacts. On top of that, Facebook will also suggest your contacts to your colleague as people they might know. Of course, that's kind of the point of Facebook, but you have to ask yourself if you really want to open yourself up to that degree of intrusion into your personal life.


Fortunately, there are solutions out there for people who want to friend colleagues on Facebook. According to the Post:

"One is to accept the invitation and then use Facebook's privacy settings to limit the flow of information between you and your new 'friend.' To do this, you can create a 'colleagues' list from the Friends menu and then add to it your new friend. Then navigate to the privacy settings and use the 'Profile Information' section to control what information people on the 'colleagues' list can see."

The other option—again suggested by the Post--is to simply invite your colleagues to connect with you on LinkedIn instead. Be sure, though, that you can do that without offending your colleague.

--Posted by Phil Stott,


Filed Under: Workplace Issues