10 August 2016

Mixing business and social media

Author :

I have a personal policy of not adding work colleagues on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. It’s nothing personal (usually) though it has come as quite a surprise to multiple co-workers in the past.

Adding people on social media is such a central part of our lives now that many people simply take it for granted I’ll connect with them in this way. However, it’s just not something I’m comfortable with anymore. I don’t feel that my colleagues need 24/7 access to my personal life through social networks, and I certainly don’t want access to theirs.

Perhaps it’s extreme but it’s simply a boundary I have drawn.

Before I go any further, let me address a few thoughts no doubt forming in your mind:

  1. I have nothing to hide. It’s not a matter of being ashamed or embarrassed of what I post on social media; my Facebook connections are generally privy to pithy observations about people on the train and endless promotion for whatever community theatre production I’m involved with.
  2. I’m not some privacy/personal security nut. I’m not afraid of social media and generally jump on whatever new platform is emerging with gusto (though I’ll admit I still haven’t got my head around Snapchat. There’s something about being a parent that makes it feel like the wrong fit for me.) I wholeheartedly accept and embrace social media as a big part of connecting with others in the 21st century.

All the same, I keep my colleagues off all my accounts (with the obvious exception of LinkedIn). I haven’t always done this, and I’ve found getting to know the online versions of my colleagues has damaged my working relationship with them in one way or another. Here are just a few highlights:

There was the manager I respected and looked up to as a mentor who couldn’t spell or string a coherent sentence together on Facebook while banging on about his trips to Big Sur and Burning Man. I know it shouldn’t have changed my view of him but I just couldn’t help it.

There was the colleague who seemed so nice and normal at work, but turned out to be a hard-core anti-vaxxer.

There was the brilliant art director who was obviously very proud of his body, and took to Instagram to post selfies in his underwear several times a week. There are just some things you don’t need to know about the people you work with…

Keeping my professional and online lives separate has been a hugely valuable decision. It allows me to maintain entirely professional relationship at work, and develop friendships with the people I genuinely connect with.

I’m not alone in saying this. An article recently published on Women Love Tech outlined “5 Reasons Why You Should UnFriend Your Boss”. According to the article, “one in four Australian workers (25 per cent) has been appalled and distressed by the social media posts of a colleague or boss, completely changing their opinion of that person.”

Another article published on LinkedIn by Michael Stoddart from Aumento Consulting says “The blurring of lines with social media and the traditional employee/manager relationship is very real and is causing problems in the workplace.” Stoddart compares adding colleagues on Facebook with leaving a family photo album in the breakroom at work – it just doesn’t make sense.

So, my personal advice (very much backed up by the experts) is this:

  • Don’t add colleagues (especially your boss) on social platforms meant for personal use like Facebook and Instagram. It’s just not worth it.
  • Do use LinkedIn for what it’s intended: Professional networking.
  • If a colleague adds me on Instagram or Twitter (i.e. a site on which I don’t need to “accept” or approve them), I remove them and politely explain my social media policy. Consistency for the win!

Christian Berechree joined Akolade’s production team in May 2016. He has a Bachelor of Media and Music and a Masters in Journalism.

Christian is a musical theatre geek and a new dad, and he’ll happily spend hours telling you about either or both of those things.

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