Steven Petrow helps you navigate the digital world in the real world:
I think my boss is upset that I haven't accepted his friend request on Facebook. I've have made it a rule not to friend any of my co-workers, which would definitely include him, because I think it's inviting trouble. What should I do now?
– Name withheld, Seattle
Let me start with some basic advice to all bosses in the world: Don't send friend requests to anyone who works for you, directly or even indirectly. If you're the company president, that means everybody on the payroll; if a manager, then I'm talking about all the folks in your division. I'm not alone on this: A recent survey reported that 80% of respondents said it was a bad idea to be Facebook friends with "da boss."
Why? The workplace is confusing enough these days, especially as we try to navigate the important difference between professional and personal. One savvy corporate manager told me: "I would never 'friend' someone on my staff, as it puts them in an awkward position. I have tried to limit Facebook to people I have a social, true friend relationship with." Added one employee: "It's not a good idea. It blurs the lines between friendship and employee and boss."
As you've realized, however, Your boss' request places you between a rock and a hard place. If you ignore him, as you have so far, he's likely to feel disrespected and may even think that you have something to hide. If you accept the request, you're going to have to make sure you never post anything that could be considered "unprofessional." And hope that your friends do that as well. Good luck with that.
Still, there are steps you can take to limit who sees what you post. But let's be real: Privacy settings don't always work, and people have been fired because of their social media posts.
I'd suggest that you e-mail your boss and tell him that you're happy to connect via LinkedIn, the professional networking service, but that you prefer to reserve Facebook for your personal life.
Or move to Oregon, one of nearly a dozen states that prohibit employers from "compelling" or even "requesting" their workers to friend or "like" them.
Read more of Steven Petrow's Your Digital Life columns on usaweekend.com. Submit your question below. You can also follow Steven on Twitter @StevenPetrow and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/stevenpetrow.