when professional contacts contact you via Facebook and other personal sites

A reader writes:

I work for a mobile company which is the market leader in what we do. I have been working in India, and has now been working out of the global head office for the past three years. I work on HR projects which have nothing to do with recruitment in either the country that I live in, or my home country.

I have a corporate LinkedIn account – the company is paying for it – and hence I use it as a work tool and connect to whomever sends me an invite. However, this has resulted in people sending me friend requests in facebook ( which I decline, I only add close friends or close colleagues in facebook and I give them the reason for declining) and then calling me up and demanding I find them a job. Some of them got my mobile number from some mutual friends under the pretext of wanting career advice from me, while some never told me how they got my mobile number. Some try to add me to gtalk and then chat without any context or reason. I have blocked the gtalk baiters after politely explaining to them how I do not mix my professional and personal life, but some were miffed that I did not want to add them as friends.

I also get group emails for various HR Services and recruitment brochures from various institutes from my home country and other parts of the world. If I get a email in my office ID or LinkedIn profile, I forward it to the right person in my organization. When I get them at my personal ID, I often mark them as spam – especially the “surveys,” which are often just a ploy to get the email address, office address and mobile numbers of some of the highly placed people in the organization.

I understand that these are difficult times, but I don’t want my personal life to be encroched upon. My LinkedIn profile clearly requests all professional requests should be sent via my office email or LinkedIn account. It also explains where I am working now, and what I am doing. People who would take two minutes to read my profile will not be sending me these emails.

Is it ok to block / mark as spam these people, who do not do me the common courtesy of reading up a bit about my work before generically spamming me? I had to block a few men in the past week on gtalk, and got a bunch of spam emails. I am at my wits end.

Different people use social networking tools differently. Some people have no barrier at all between professional and personal contacts, and freely intermingle their work and personal personas on Facebook, etc. Other people don’t. Because there are no clear guidelines or commonly accepted mores, you’re going to have people attempt to cross this boundary in ways you don’t like.

But you’re entitled to enforce whatever boundaries you want. I’d start by removing your gmail and other personal contact info from your LinkedIn profile. (I assume that’s how people are getting it.) If you put it there, it’s not unreasonable that people think they can use it, so don’t offer it up.

From there, of course you don’t need to “friend” people on Facebook who you don’t feel you know. And you can set your privacy settings so that people you don’t approve don’t see much, or any, of your profile. You can do this with or without explanation — an explanation will likely irk at least some people (rightly or wrongly), so it may be easier/kinder to do it without one.

As for companies that are sending you work-related advertisements on your personal email, you’re as free to ignore this as you are junk mail you receive at home. But again, you might be better off short-circuiting the problem by not making your personal email address available to those you only want to interact with in your professional sphere.

{ 4 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Thanks AAM. I do not make my personal email available to any of the professional networking sites, but people still manage to find me.

    Thanks on the advice on settings. Will do!

  2. Just Another HR Lady*

    I had a similar experience last year. I had completed a telephone interview with a candidate, got home, opened my Facebook and had a "friend invite" from that candidate. I have a pretty common name, and there are several other people with the same name in my geographic location, so I started wondering if he had just sent out friend invites to everyone with my name, in the hopes of hitting the right person.

    I found it quite intrusive and creepy…

  3. Rachel - I Hate HR*

    I would just ignore it and not give a response as to why you're not accepting them. That way you can always use the "Oh I never saw that" excuse if they approach you about it.

  4. Anonymous*

    I like the idea of ignoring the invitation. If you can hold out, the fads called LinkedIn/Facebook/MySpace/Twitter will fade off as niche tools that only narcissistic fools will use. WHEN that happens, you should ignore those people like the Bubonic plague.

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