Social-media guidelines has been the topic of several recent posts. One of the questions that I suggest employers consider when drafting a social-media policy is “the friending issue.” That’s right.
When deciding on how employees will be encouraged or required to engage online, one point that comes up repeatedly is whether there should be any rules with respect to friending on Facebook.
There are several possible answers to this question. I don’t advocate that any one of them is the only “right” answer. It will depend, in large part, on your company’s culture and the organization’s overall approach to social media. But you should think about them, nonetheless. Here are the choices:
1. No rules. Anyone can friend anyone and the employer won’t get involved.
2. Supervisors may not make friend requests to direct reports. Direct reports may make friend requests to supervisors, in which case the supervisor has the discretion to accept (or not accept) the request.
3. Supervisors may not make friend requests to direct reports. Direct reports may not make friend requests to their supervisor. Colleagues may be friends on Facebook.
Although I don’t believe any of the 3 are the “best” answer, I do advocate that employers at least consider implementing the second choice, which prohibits supervisors from friending their direct reports. Common sense dictates that any request that comes from a supervisor is going to be given more consideration. In other words, will the employee really feel free to deny the request? Likely not.
And what’s the potential harm by implementing this rule? Very little. The employee can make the request if he wants. It seems to me that prohibiting a supervisor from being the initiating party, the only thing you’re prohibiting is possible undue pressure or coercion.