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How to Handle a Friend Request from a Coworker

How to Handle a Friend Request from a Coworker

Scroll through your list of friends on your various social media profiles, and if you’re like any other online networking obsessed time waster, you’ll probably notice a myriad of names you don’t even recognize.  How they got there you can’t quite recall, but at some point you’ve given them full access to your profile information.  Yet ironically, those are not the people you’re worried about – it’s oftentimes the people you do know well.  We’re talking about coworkers.  You see these people everyday, you work in the next cubicle over, you eat lunch together during your break.  But when it comes to connecting over the Internet, that’s where you feel you must draw the line.  You like to keep your business life and your personal life as separate, and with good reason.  Goody-two-shoes though you may be back at the office, you’re an all-out hooligan after 5pm, your antics better suited far outside the office.  But how do you bring yourself to turn down a friend request from a coworker and continue leading a double life?  Read on…

Deny Requests from All Coworkers

This doesn’t really seem to answer the present question, but a strict policy that involves denying all office related friend requests diffuses most awkward interactions.  If you make it a point to remain cut off from all of your office peers online, no particular coworker will be personally offended when he or she gets rejected.  If, however, you accept some requests and deny others, you’ll likely have some explaining to do.  Certain cast-out individuals will wonder what’s wrong with them, and worse still, what you’re hiding…

Ignore the Request

You could try to make life easier on yourself by dismissing the request altogether.  Don’t address the issue, and maybe your coworker will forget about the overture they made in the first place.  If they happen to bring it up, simply explain that you don’t spend much time on the website, and thus you haven’t gotten around to connecting with them yet.  You can further spin your web of untruths as you explain that you likely won’t be logging on in the near future, and so they can expect your continued absence from their friend network.  If you do take this approach, just make sure that you avoid making all sorts of public changes to your profile, dispelling the illusion that you have limited your online activity.

Create a Different or Limited Profile

An alternative to denying a coworker’s friend request altogether is to create a different, or in some cases, a limited, profile that your office friends can see.  This is less likely to cause any hard feelings, and the coworker will often be none the wiser.  Yet here too, consider creating a general policy for all coworkers.  You don’t want to get caught up in an awkward situation where a good buddy at work brings up the table dancing pictures you just posted, but hid from others in the office.  (Though is said buddy really a buddy if he sheds light on your rowdy weekend first thing Monday morning?)

As we all know, the advent of social media has brought with it some tricky dynamics in both the job search and the workplace.  Always make sure to put your best foot forward online, and do what you can to protect your privacy.

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86 comments

  1. “You can further spin your webs of untruths”.

    Great, this article is suggesting to lie?

    Thumbs down from me. If you lie about one thing, what else will you lie about?

    Come on, you can decline friend requests from co-workers morally.

  2. Very easy answer for me. I never say or do anything publicly or on social networks that I wouldn’t do in front of 20,000 people. Only my true close friends get to see me make a fool of myself. lol

  3. I am who I am. I don’t get very personal on social sites. If a co-worker joins me on Facebook, I don’t “like” and comment on everything they do. When they ask if I saw their cousins, husbands brother with their new baby. I just tell them my feed moves so fast, I just don’t see everything … but, congrats! I am sure that’s one cute baby.

  4. Some social sites would be hard to create 2 different profiles. This is truly a conundrum that I have had to deal with, although I have been self-employed for many years and have not had employees. I made different decisions based on the person. It’s been great to see how other’s handle it.

  5. I have no problem with adding co-workers to my social media sites as I post nothing that would be beyond my normal bounds. That said I do not add just anybody. I need to know them beyond talking to them at the water cooler once in a blue moon.

  6. 1. Use lists.
    2. Never post anything that you could be ashamed of.
    3. Steer them to LinkedIn or Google + where the share with circles feature is excellent.

  7. Coworkers can connect with me on LinkedIn. Facebook is for friends and family only. Twitter, I’m not going to stop you from following me. That’s all public anyhow. Google+, knock your socks off, I can’t be bothered with it anyhow.

  8. The way I feel about it is this… You should never fear who to accept as a friend or not.

    If you dont want to be friendly with someone, then stop pussy footing around and tell them.

    None of this running around and gaming the status quo that normal every day jobs promote (pathetic).

    You should never be ashamed of yourself and your private life. If you choose to share some of those moments, you do at your own risk.

  9. If you don’t use Facebook for business, ignore it. You don’t want them in your personal life, and they can always connect to you in the future. If they ask, just tell them you save it for family and don’t connect it at work. Tell them it’s best practices from a course you took if they persist. Offer to connect to them on LinkedIn.

    If you do use Facebook for business, make sure personal information is never on there, and ignore family.

  10. So far I’ve accepted them, but I’ve not had any trick requests yet – I suspect a limited profile works best for those situations – ignoring isn’t really an option

  11. A limited profile for co-workers would work best, as it creates a workspace outside of the office without intruding on your personal space on Facebook.

  12. FB is more a personal app than a profesional one, so I normally don’t have people from work there. The ones I have are listed in a group and normally don’t see all the content I post.

  13. I recommend either connecting only via LinkedIn with colleagues, or if they insist on FB, make a different “professional” looking profile on FB for colleagues. That said, I wouldn’t want to work anyplace that would punish you for what you do on FB on your own time.

  14. I have no issues in adding – however they must be people I converse with regularly.

    That being said I don’t post crazy info on my FB pages nor anything which could offend – I leave that to friends to do that so I can bask in the fire that reigns down on them.

    I am who I am – not much different anyhwere and I NEVER NEVER talk about work on my FB page.

  15. You have a choice to choose how to place certain people, i went through this predicament, and i handled each person accordingly. there is no such thing as generalizing as that would land you in deeper problems.

  16. Generally speaking, I use FB for friends and family; some of my coworkers may also be friends. My boss made a comment one day that ‘we should connect on FB’. We had never connected except for work so I gave him a flat look and said ‘Really? I’m not sure that’s a great idea.’ He paused for a second and then said ‘Oh. Yeah, you’re probably right.’

    He’s no longer my boss and we’re still connected on LI but not appropriate for FB as we just don’t run in the same social circles.

  17. I try to view everyone as potential customers and do my best to keep my brand from tarnishing. With this said, if I need a break for you all, I would most likely go for the option of creating a different non connected account with a alias.

  18. I am “me” at work and everywhere, if a coworker doesn’t like my behavior they are free to retract their friend request. Now if they use my profile information as discussion at work then they seriously need a bigger workload since they apparently have a lot of extra time in their hands : )

  19. Interesting dilemma. I am struggling with that partly too. I am an individual with certain interest, but also a company brand with client who do not want to be inundated with non-business stuff.

    I think social media starts to get better in this stuff. Google’s circle’s are pretty good for this. You can decide who to send what depending of the grouping.

    So my advice and what I am trying to learn better is to use technology appropriately to provide only the information to people that they are interested in.

    Otherwise I agree with other comments here. It is always good to act in a way that does not embarrass one later. Anonymity on the Internet, in particular on social media is more and more decreasing. Everybody should be aware of this and protect their own brand.

  20. Ask them to “Like” you FB page instead. Example:
    “Like” me at my new facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/petertrapassocom/182270978527723

  21. More interesting considerations … now I’m out of the conventional workplace, I don’t worry about it too much anymore. I should, however, hook up with ex-colleagues because our one time friendship could probably be of more use to both parties these days!

  22. consistent personas across all worlds – it is the only way

  23. Your best friends know about your worst times. There is no need to put it online. With that, you can accept everyone as a friend.

  24. Linked in is for business contacts only. Facebook I tend to keep it for my friends. I want to keep the 2 worlds separate.

  25. Grace Alexander of Brilliance On Demand

    I’m lucky. I’m not ‘employed’, and I don’t have to worry about what co-workers might think of me. I have a professional FB page, but my personal profile is MINE. This may hurt me in certain situations (such as not being able to add Facebook engagements from my main Facebook on Empire Avenue) but I refuse to ‘sanitize’ it, and have left it unlinked. People who ask to friend me are warned they may be offended.

    I am not ashamed of what I post on Facebook – it’s the real me. I haven’t seen it hurt my company – in fact, one very NSFW video a potential client found on a blog of mine actually convinced him I had the sort of dark humor he wanted and I landed a job despite something many people would have looked askance at (for those now wondering frantically what it was, I’ll just say it was a mashup of clips featuring Spock and Kirk from Star Trek TOS set to a very explicit Nine Inch Nails song).

    I do think some people have to be very, very careful. I know teachers do, in particular. However, if I were unlucky to work for a company that felt it had the right to dictate how I express my political or religious views on my own Facebook page, I know I’d be chafing.

  26. I’m very conscious that what I post on any social media site might be viewed by an employer someday. I do post some strong opinions, but I never post anything I’d be ashamed for that employer (or potential employer) to see. So I’d never post anything I wouldn’t want a colleague to see.

  27. I use facebook for family and twitter for friends, work, etc. Not ideal for some, but it works for me.

  28. I hang out with coworkers outside of work and genuinely consider them friends so they are added. Have to self censor or exclude people from status updates at times though.

  29. I’ve always just ignored requests from anyone I worked with. You wont find any embarrassing pictures of me or silly posts about getting drunk, but religion and politics do tend to come up on my facebook wall either by my own doing or through friends and family posting on my wall. Some of the posts may offend co-workers that are religious or align themselves with one party or another, so I prefer to just keep it seperate.

  30. Just say no. Social media is for people you don’t see every day. It’s just like drinking. A good Scotch is nothing to be ashamed of but it doesn’t belong in the office unless you are Don Draper.

  31. We respect each other’s privacy while having access to one another’s social media pages. We do creep each other’s pages and leave irrelavant posts.

  32. I say yes. I’m easy to find and have nothing to hide. I rarely block people who have an agenda impossible for me to tolerate.

  33. I would act just the same, if I allow strangers access then I should allow co-workers too. With today’s HR offices if I was such a “hooligan” outside of office hours no doubt that would be some how brought up and I would be reprimanded for it if that some how reflected poorly on the company. Most HR search through social networks before they even offer a job, and we all know the Internet doesn’t forget much of anything. Long story short, I act the same professionally or privately and if it’s just my well being at concern then I have nothing to blame but myself for my own behavior and I can own up to that.

  34. I Wouldn’t do or say anything on the net that I wouldn’t say outside the social networks – so I personally have no problem to have coworkers in my “friends”-lists ;-)

  35. Lots of good suggestions here. Best, I think is not to post to social media any behavior or comments you don’t want people to know about. Lists can help in Facebook but are unwieldy and better used for filtering what you read than restricting who can read what. I do keep FB lists for family and church, but mainly because I think those topics are of no interest to the rest of my connections.

    The other side of the question is what to do when a coworker or professional acquaintance posts outrageous, comprising or personal matters to their page. My approach is to ignore such posts, to be completely tolerant, understanding that we are all people, but not to go read them either.

  36. Limited profile them or even the new restricted profile works well

  37. This is such an interesting topic because I think it changes with each Facebook update… Anyway, I have all people who I don’t know extremely well on Limited Profile and no one has ever complained. Having said that, I also am a firm believer that if you don’t want your co-workers to see something on your profile, why post it at all? Digital is permanent. If you don’t want your co-workers to see something today, you might not want ANYONE seeing it tomorrow. Think about what you post. And use limited profile freely ;)

  38. I personally follow the top two usually. Though my work situation is slightly different than this scenario, ignoring request’s for a long time works best for me. But since I do not see those that request a friendship on FB on a regular basis, it makes it much easier for me. But if I am ever confronted with the question of why I never accepted. I just state that my personal FB account is strictly for close friends and relatives. I have a second biz account for biz and acquaintances. Cheers

  39. I am with Susan above. Live a life that you don’t have to hide part of it due to inconsistencies.

  40. I have a solution but , it’s my solution.
    I have two different profiles, one for the work and co-workers and one private.
    Not that I’m writing or doing strange things but s work is work and private life it’s private.
    Probabily the professionalprofile it’s much more interesting than the other

  41. I think it is a good idea to assume anything you put online can be found by your boss , future bosses your mom, your children etc

  42. It really depends on my relation to the person. FB only for private friends, LinkedIn or Xing is open for coworkers

    Kind regards from Germany

    Hansjörg

  43. I agree with Paul Steinbrueck above. Be the same person after hours as you are at work.

    Assuming that you are a different person after work, I would accept the friend request, but place the person on a limited profile list.

  44. I have not worked in 12 years but would welcome former colleagues and instructors connecting up. But my unique situation of living in managed care meant that I lived full time in someone else’s working environment. Since I introduced them to social media knowing all the politics that go on better than them since I lived in their work place 24 hours I suggested a company page and a personal page.
    At first like anyone new to social media the friend/CEO I introduced to Social media was like anyone new to it and accepting anybody and everybody to her personal account even though We discussed professional versus personal account. Each time She now checks in with me she is always asking how She can politely de-friend those She let in when her enthusiasm overrode policy.
    Once you open the barn door it is very hard to get the horses back in. Office politics can turn wicked best to have two accounts or the no coworker policy while you are still actively working.
    Lying always comes back to bite you in the rear because everybody has access to search engines and if they were curious enough about your life to ask to friend you you bet they have Googled you once.
    Me I am open to pretty much everything as I do not currently work and feel my bizarre story may help someone in the future. But the article makes me think about the future when I return to the 9-5. May rethink my own policy which has been pretty open.

  45. I like the idea that a separated profile be setup only for coworkers.

  46. Social Media is Social Media. The more exposure, the more chances of success. So I would have them be part of my groups no matter what.

  47. I personally like to keep the 2 worlds seperate.

  48. Things hang around in cyberspace for a long time, maybe for ever. Why would you give hostages to fortune by uploading compromising pictures of yourself? You can tell from this way of putting it that my husband is safely retired and I have been self-employed since 1987! But seriously, do be careful and I strongly suggest you do not trust arrangements for keeping things private on the internet. Once it’s up there, it’s up there!

  49. One added issue that I’ve noticed is “friend” requests from people at work that are hardly friends. In many cases we are barely acquainted, a face I know, but nothing else. Those I choose to ignore.

  50. If we had facebook profile, sometime we don’t have to add all of friend as facebook friend, so we can ignore some friend request like from the coworker.

  51. What you put on social media is public. You should think before you do so.

  52. I feel you can’t do without a fake list or account nowadays. It’s too much a trouble to be sincere with your followings. I give them deliberately as everybody does and we all know they are not worth a single bit but people would make your life a pain otherwise.

    Nevertheless: to follow doesn’t mean I will like everything.

  53. I’m in the camp with those who say what you put on social media is public and that way you never have to worry about who sees what. A bit simplistic? maybe

  54. My advice would be not to live a double life. It’s much easier just to be the same person around everyone. That said, you now can create lists on Facebook and share certain updates/pics only with the people on particular lists.

  55. I have two FB accounts. One is open. Wide. And it’s got nothing to hide. Neither does my private account. But my private account includes my kids and people who knew me way back when. And my parents. I don’t like mixing that with the work world. There are a few exceptions, folks who work with me and have friended me on both. But. Let’s face it, mom posting on the wall and ending it with “love, mama” is just not professional but it sure is precious in my personal world… The two need to be separate for me.

  56. I don’t separate business and private life. I’m either on or off – choose whatever line suits you.

    Oh, have I mentioned I have a prepaid and very unsmart mobile phone and never sent an SMS in my whole life ?

  57. I’m quite blunt about it: if I’m good friends with them in the office (and I mean good friends), then I am happy to connect with them online. If I don’t know them well enough, I just ignore the request. Maybe I’m lucky with my co-workers but this I’m happy to connect with everyone on my team and the only one’s I’ve turned down have been from specific individuals on different teams that I just don’t want to be connected with socially. If those people are offended, then frankly I don’t really care.

    And being in my 30s and married with kids I actually follow Susan Critelli’s advice and don’t embarrass myself online anyway … admittedly this might not be so easy in your 20s and single …

  58. Today i always let people add me at facebook.
    But my unwritten rules decide. They must be someone i know somehow.
    And some more rules but thats not important right now :P

  59. I’m not on Facebook and I refuse to have a profile on Facebook, so my answer to be to explain that, explain my reasons for not having a Facebook page (Facebook refuses to provide any sort of privacy, profiles are easily hacked, etc), and explain that I am on Google Plus and I would be happy to add them to my coworker circle on Google Plus.

    The advantage of Google Plus over Facebook is that you can keep people in separate circles so that this is not so much an issue.

  60. There is never going to be anything on my FB that I would be embarrassed for my coworkers or clients to see. However, I work hard to maintain a professional demeanor in business and pictures of my dog, etc. don’t contribute to that! So – I don’t accept these requests and do casually mention my policy to the requester.

  61. I take pride in my wackiness, so I would be more than happy to accept them and embarrass myself some more, maybe give them a few laughs, or who knows, maybe some good-living might rub off.

  62. Good question. Any case is a case…
    Thanks Bob for the question about.

  63. Be your self at all times.

  64. I’d go with a Facebook Page for public information (for acquaintances) and keep my own profile for friends and family. I think at this point, most people would understand that you want a limited, intimate social network.

  65. Unless you’re going to make your personal facebook non-searchable having 2 Facebook accounts can be slightly awkward. I just have one profile, and if I’m not really close with that person I won’t add them.

  66. There are lots of great points here!

    I agree that if you don’t want something about you posted online, you probably shouldn’t do it. However, I do still like to separate my personal and professional life online so that each group can see things that are relevant to them. For example, my friends and family see holiday pictures, celebrity gossip, etc, while coworkers/clients/job applicants will see Identified news, recruiting tips, etc.

    I used to have two separate profiles for this, but Facebook recently made it easier to keep my networks separate from within a single profile. I would highly suggest utilizing the “lists” feature for this purpose. You can control who sees which parts of your profile, and you can post targeted messages to each list.

    If you’re unfamiliar with setting this up, check out my blog post: http://employers.identified.com/blog/bid/67913/Facebook-Recruitment-Learn-how-to-use-Lists

    Jen Picard
    Product Marketing Director, Identified

  67. Yeah, I’ve had that experience before and just wasn’t sure what to do with the friend request. Ignoring works for me.

  68. The problem with this “dilemma” is that an assumption is being made that an explanation is owed to the friend-requesting coworker. Why?

    I have two facebook profiles – one for family and friends, the other for students (I work in Higher Ed). This is not to say the lines are black and white. I have coworkers on both accounts depending on how close I am to them. When coworkers request BOTH accounts, I have simply added them to the appropriate profile as I see fit. After all, its MY facebook account.

  69. These are fine suggestions but it’s just as easy to create a list in Facebook with your coworkers on it, and in the settings option, decide what you want them to see and NOT see. You can choose now! You can name this group whatever you want, say: “People Who Are Judgmental”. Probably others besides coworkers will fit in this group.

    I also like the idea of either acting in a way that’s not mortifying in your real life, and/or not posting your wild escapades on Facebook. What a concept!

  70. Uh, it DEFUSES the situation, not DIFFUSES. Unless you were looking to spread the situation over a large area.

  71. It’s an unfortunate reality, but when push comes to shove, and jobs are on the line, our co-workers may not necessarily be there for us when trouble is brewing at the office. The less potential ammunition that can turned your way, the better. Keeping as much of your personal life as you can separate from your work environment is almost always a good idea.

  72. Never, never announce, for the world to see, any bad behavior that can follow you for many years to come.

  73. Here is perhaps a totally different slant on the subject. What is the purpose of work/job? If I understand it correctly, it is to get a project completed, to work with others for a common goal. It is not to spend time doing non work/job related things.

    When one is not at their job, the time is theirs. Employers should not be concerned with what an employee does outside work and other employees should not be concerned either.

    However, human nature says differently. We tend to pass judgment on others when we shouldn’t (remember the parable about casting the first stone).

    Perhaps a solution (although I know it would never happen) is for co-workers to not gossip and for employers to not put much importance in that gossip.

  74. LinkedIn is for professional contacts; i.e coworkers and such.

    Everything else needs to be thought about. I would add that you political or religious preferences are another reason to be wary about adding all your co-workers to your social group. It work I am polite and respectful, and focus on work related matters. Facebook for me is a place to not only talk about my personal interests but also to “pass-along” articles/things that I think are important. Things that others may take objection with. This makes it hard to work objectively with those same people on a day to day basis.

    • I agree Lorrence. I am a Jesus freak. While I don’t prosthelytize at the office, my facebook page is mostly ministry. Nobody is shocked when they come across my facebook page but I am much more liberal with what I share online than in the office.

  75. Thanks for the great post! This is definitely a relevant topic. Love your take/comment, Jeanette! I’m pretty fortunate in that all my coworkers are really lenient, but I do have friends divided into different groups on Facebook and certain “questionable” connections are censored. If I began a new job where I was more concerned about what information I have up and a new coworker requested to connect, I’d probably accept but limit the kinds of things they can see til I’m able to better gage their personality…

  76. My advice would be go the create a different list such as Facebook Business Contacts and limited what that group / list would see. That way you get best of all worlds.

  77. I’m so happy I don’t have a JOB! My employees are encouraged to join social media sites and to be as transparent as they want to be. I don’t mind when they tweet while working. I do.

  78. It is a dilemma. When I was young I would not have wanted everyone from work to know about my private life. Good points!

  79. I have created a limited list on Facebook labeled Professional. I add my co-workers and all people I network with professionally under this list.

  80. Ugh. I meant either “behaving in a way you would not be embarrassed” or “not behaving in a way you would be embarrassed.” Either way, just don’t do it.

  81. How about not behaving outside the office in a way that you would not be embarrassed about if your coworkers knew about it? What a concept!

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