… Until you see one of your co-workers online “dropping it like it’s hot” in a photo or a status update about being drunk and hungover after a night of wild partying or sharing a link in support of “that” hot-button issue.
Then the fun stops. And things get real. Or really, really uncomfortable. Sometimes both.
There’s a whole lot of talk about the impact of social media on the recruiting and hiring process. Articles abound on the intricate potential legality and liability of Google-searching for candidates to learn more about them or entangling with them on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter during the screening/interview phase. Even I wrote about it! (Read that here)
However, once the person is hired and working either for you or with you, the decision to “friend or not to friend” becomes much more difficult to make and the advice not as easy to find … which is surprising considering one of the things that makes people the most nervous about social media is how seemingly blurry it makes the lines between our personal and professional lives. Many aren’t comfortable with the pace of the shift to living life “per-fessionally,” where there is no apparent separation between our home, work and social selves.
Truthfully, it makes me nervous, too. I worry about allowing the people I work with, the people I work for and the people who work for me access to my life in that way. I worry they will judge me, my children, my family, my friends, my interests, my thoughts … And that I will judge them in the same ways. And I really worry about those judgments having a negative impact on our ability to effectively accomplish our company’s goals.
But I don’t let these worries stop me from engaging and connecting meaningfully with people through social media. And you shouldn’t either!
The goal of connecting with your co-workers should be to become more endeared to them. If you’re not really interested in knowing what the person does and thinks when they are not working, then don’t connect on more personal sites like Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare or Pinterest. Save those “work-only” connections for LinkedIn. Of course, you should always monitor your privacy settings – and you can use these to make yourself more difficult to search for and/or to limit what people can see, while you grow in understanding and confidence with your social media presence.
Remember there are still rules to follow and reputations to maintain. If your co-worker is obviously engaging in online behaviors that could hurt them professionally, you have to take action. And the first action should be talking to the person and encouraging him/her to cut out any foolishness! Sometimes, we lose sight of how we come across to other people, especially from behind a computer. The reader doesn’t always know the context and cannot decipher the tone or intent of a message. A reminder from a friend may be all we need to get back on track. But, if that doesn’t work or if the person is participating in things like bullying, gossip, negative talk or other things truly detrimental to the company, you may have to report it to management. (I did that once, too. Read about it HERE!)
Usually, the issues won’t be that serious. Usually, you will find yourself surprised to learn the people you work best with do not like the same things you like, do not go places you would go and don’t always say nice things.
Get over it! Cuz they are probably thinking some of the same things about you!
So instead of being critical, learn to enjoy the totality of people and appreciate that they trust you enough to open their lives to you that way.
Meaningful connection is still an honor and a privilege, whether it’s online or in real life. It’s never easy to make yourself open and vulnerable to other people. But it is usually worth it. So take a chance!