To ‘Friend’ or Not to ‘Friend’?



For HR professionals, “friending” employees on Facebook or connecting on other social media sites is far from a simple decision.

That’s what Chelsea Wheeler discovered after she posed the question “Do any of you accept friend requests on social media from employees?” to the HR Department of One group on SHRM Connect, the Society for Human Resource Management’s online community.

In an interview with SHRM Online, Wheeler, HR director at Cuisine Unlimited in Salt Lake City, said, “I was prompted [to pose the question] by the recent friend requests I was getting from employees at the company I work for. I’ve been building good rapport with many of them, and now they’ve been requesting me on Facebook. My gut told me it was not a good idea to accept their friend requests, but I wanted insight from fellow HR professionals.”

That insight varied.

Some said it was OK to accept friend requests from employees but to “tread lightly.” Others said it’s better to invite those employees to connect on LinkedIn instead because that platform is more professional. Concerns about connecting on Facebook—and retaining those connections after a promotion—ranged from finding out too much information about employees to being accused of favoritism or impropriety.

Most people who commented on Wheeler’s post recommended against accepting a friend request from an employee, and employment attorneys generally agree. That’s because people tend to share very personal details about themselves and others on social media, and what you see may create conflict. For example, one person wrote that an employee who was supposed to be teleworking had posted on Facebook that they were actually partying in Las Vegas.

“Setting expectations for when the bad things happen is key,” blogger Ben Eubanks, SHRM-SCP, said in an interview with SHRM Online. It’s why some people only share certain posts with certain people by using different variations of their friends list (for example, the Friends Except Acquaintances list). The learning analyst with Huntsville, Ala.-based research firm Brandon Hall Group said, things people share on social media "will not always be pleasant. But for some reason as humans we are hardwired to imagine that everything will be fine in perpetuity. It just isn’t logical, and we need to have a frank conversation about what happens if things don't go as planned.”

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