It's no secret that employers and hiring managers will check applicants' social media accounts. But now, employees need to worry about the boss checking their Facebook while they're on the job.
According to the Council of State Governments, some companies are asking employees to " 'friend' a human resources director or coach." And many workers are, understandably, nervous. In fact, a recent Cornell University study indicated that some Facebook users are even going so far as to drop their accounts or suspend use "to avoid being friended" by a boss.
Concern that employers' snooping into workers' social media accounts has become so widespread that 35 state legislatures have introduced bills barring employers from asking for employees' social media account passwords, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Oregon and Washington became the latest states to pass laws prohibiting employers from requiring workers or applicants to friend managers. A handful of other states, such as Arkansas and New Mexico, have similar laws. But others -- Colorado and Utah, for example -- have laws that could be read as only prohibiting a demand for an account password and not the requirement to add a boss to a contact list.
What's wrong with being a 'friend'? A lot: By friending a boss, you give access to most, if not all, of the information the company would be interested in, whether they're complaints about work, political inclinations different from your boss's, or photos of you out on a night of drinking and carousing. Your life can be on display at all times. Differences in such areas as politics and religion could potentially affect your career, even if subconsciously on your supervisor's part.
Relatively few people bother to structure their Facebook's privacy settings to wall off information from one group of friends but not another. In addition, Facebook privacy controls frequently change, meaning that users must revisit what they had set in the past to ensure that their choices remain in force.
In fact, nearly 1 out of 3 employees in said in a survey that they know of someone who has been chewed out at work for "inappropriate postings" on Facebook. According to the Council of State Governments, companies have asked employees to "delete their social media accounts" and even "'friend' a human resources director or coach."
Wharton Business School professor Nancy Rothbard, who has studied social media usage, says for many workers, friending a boss is as complicated a decision as to whether to add a parent, only with some additional complications. The supervisor's gender can raise what Rothbard calls the "creep factor." Female bosses sending a friend request were more likely to be accepted when they offered more personal information. With male bosses, the result was the opposite.
What to do when you get the request: Until more states adopt laws offering employees protections, most workers have few choices. You can refuse your manager's request, which could be awkward. You could ignore the request and hope that your boss eventually forgets. Or you can accept the request and then create one Facebook group for the boss and exclude that group from posts and access to photos and other information. However, that could eventually seem obvious to a boss who is looking to snoop.
Are you your supervisor's friend? How do you handle it?