do I have to add my coworkers on Facebook?

A reader writes:

Quick question about adding coworkers on Facebook.

Some background: I am new the workforce, I just finished up a year-long internship with a very large multinational company and have been with my current company for about 3 months. This company is a small, family-owned and -operated firm. Everyone who works there, besides me and another new hire (we’ll call her A), are either relatives or very close family friends. About a week after A started, she proceeded to friend everyone in the office on Facebook. Obviously everyone else was already connected, but she did not add me because my privacy settings make finding me very difficult. No one else in the office has mentioned anything about this, and I assumed I was being professional by keeping work and personal life separate. Having the privacy settings I do doesn’t mean I have anything to hide, I just don’t like to broadcast everything I post to the entire world.

Anyway, this week we had a marketing meeting, and she was put in charge of the company Facebook. She proceeded to find me since I had “liked” our company page when I first started (note to self: don’t like company pages!) and request me from her personal page.

I am nervous that denying her request and explaining to her that I like to keep work and home life separate will not go over well, and will be seen as me not fitting in to the “culture” that my company is trying to create, where everyone is very close in both facets. I would really like to do well at this company and hopefully move up as they grow so I don’t want to blow it. Should I just accept her request as a way of showing that I am committed to our culture, or do you have any other suggestions how to handle this? You can clearly tell from this that I am not a huge fan of A, but I understand that sometimes you have to do things you don’t really feel comfortable doing to succeed.

You’re probably over-thinking this, but I like over-thinking around here.

You have a few options:

1. Just ignore the Facebook request. You don’t need to explain to her why you haven’t accepted it; there’s a good chance that she’s not even going to notice or ask you about it. If she ever does ask you about it, say something non-committal — “oh, I’m hardly ever on Facebook” or “I didn’t see it; I’ll have to remember to look next time I’m on” or whatever.

2. Accept the request and then adjust your privacy settings so that no one from work can see your posts. (You can also hide their posts, if you don’t want to see them.) They won’t know that you’ve done this. If anyone ever notices that they never see anything from you on Facebook and asks you why you don’t post much (unlikely, but possible), you can just say you’re not a big Facebook user.

3. Do #1 but then be straightforward if she asks you about it:  “I’m old-fashioned about Facebook. It’s been drilled into me to keep professional and personal stuff separate.”

Any of these will work. If anyone has an issue with #3 (and it doesn’t sound like you’ve been given any reason to worry that anyone will, except maybe this one person), well, that points to a cultural thing that you have to decide if you want or not. Do you want to work somewhere that’s so tightly knit that those boundaries aren’t respected?

Also, since you’re new to the workforce, I want to make sure that you know that that type of culture — where people are very intertwined in each other’s personal lives — actually isn’t a normal workplace thing. It’s unusual enough that you should make a conscious decision about whether it’s something you like or not. And while you might decide that you do like it, be aware that there are huge potential downsides to it, like people not being held to high standards, not having consequences for poor performance, invasions of your privacy, feeling that you can never get away from work, often a lack of professionalism, etc.

I’m pointing this out not to influence you one way or another, but because too often when people are new to the work world, they assume that whatever they see in their first workplace is normal … when often it’s highly dysfunctional. I don’t actually know if that’s the case with your office or not — for all I know, it could be highly functional — but I do want to encourage you to think critically about it and not just accept it as the way it is.

But back to Facebook — basically, don’t feel pushed into something you’re not comfortable with.

{ 89 comments… read them below }

  1. A Bug!*

    This is all great advice. I’d also like to add that, if you do decide to start friending coworkers, that it’s a tough barn door to close if you change your mind later, or even just want to be choosy about which coworkers you want to accept as Facebook friends.

    I’ve personally found it simpler to just go with “I like to keep my work and personal life separate” and apply it consistently, so that nobody feels like they’re being singled out at all.

    1. Liz*

      Or you could out the coworkers who haven’t made your Facebook friend cut in front of that coworker and other people with a not-so-sorry sounding apology, and then add something like, “I’m just really particular about keeping my friend count low.”

      Not that I ever worked with someone who did that :) I’m sure it did cut down on the number of requests she had.

  2. Dawn*

    I work at a company that makes Facebook apps, and everyone’s friends with everyone else. I just shove ’em all in a list, then I can turn their ability to view things on and off as needed.

  3. Anonymous*

    I was surprised to discover you can in fact see if someone is blocking you from seeing their posts on fb, so it’s important to be careful doing this with co-workers.

    I once had a co-worker invite me to connect on fb, and in the invitation email fb automatically gives a summary of how many posts he user has among other things. So it was very obvious she posted a lot but her page showed as blank when I viewed it.

    I was taken aback that someone would initiate a connection but be blocking me, like why?!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Interesting! You could always explain that by saying that you only use it to talk with friends from college, who are all on a private Facebook list, or something like that. (And actually, that could really have been the case for your coworker.)

    2. Lexy*

      If you haven’t accepted an invitation from them yet you would not be able to see their posts if they are marked “friends only” (as most smart people do) so I wouldn’t take offense to that!

      But yeah, it is possible to get a sense that someone is blocking you from their FB posts… although the circumstances under which one would discover this (when already connected, not making a connection like in your example) are… shady.

    3. TheSnarkyB*

      Exactly. I was just about to post this. Advice item #2 is actually misleading. It is almost always obvious when you are put on someone’s “limited profile” accessibility list. OP: Do not do this if you think they won’t know the difference.
      Anonymous: If someone initiated the connection but then locked down their profile so you could see very little, it’s because they want to see what you’re doing without it being a one-way street. It actually makes a lot of sense, though it is far from courteous and could definitely cause tension.

    4. ChristineH*

      Umm….really?? I always thought FB claimed that a person you block from seeing your posts (I assume you are all referring to the new “Restricted” list) will not know that you’ve blocked them. Whoops. Well, luckily two of the people I’ve blocked have almost zero clue when it comes to technology, making me wonder why the heck they’re on FB to begin with. lol.

      1. KellyK*

        They don’t see that posts are blocked, per se, but if they look at your wall and see a whole lot of nothing, it’s going to be apparent that they’re locked out.

        1. mh_76*

          …unless you mostly don’t bother posting on FB like I don’t really bother posting… irony is that my current job centers around social media. I agree with whomever said “It’s just Facebook [get over it]”.

  4. Max*

    I don’t see any indications that the company culture really has anything to do with this. This appears to be one particular new employee who happens to really like Facebook deciding that she personally wants to friend you, and since she’s only been there a week, I doubt her requests are a reflection of the company culture as a whole.

    Everyone else there is already friends on Facebook, true…but that’s because they’re friends and relatives in real life. Employee A seems to be the only one pushing the OP about it, and I doubt she’s got the force of the company behind her requests given that she’s still a very new hire. I’m guessing that, like you, she’s new to the workforce and therefore still isn’t quite sure what level of interaction is appropriate for a professional environment.

    I doubt your company cares whether or not you friend A on Facebook; this is almost certainly a personal issue between you and her, and you should treat it as such. However, it could be problematic if A takes it poorly and begins to dislike you, especially if she’s incapable of being professional about it. I’d suggest carefully considering her personality, and going with #3 if you think she can take a polite “No” or #2 if you think she’ll overreact.

    The one caveat here is that she’s been placed in charge of Facebook marketing, at a small business which probably doesn’t know very much about Facebook. Depending on how much authority she’s actually been given and how important the bosses regard her Facebook-fu to be, it’s possible that she could run to the higher-ups and claim that it’s critically important to the company’s Facebook efforts for you to friend her – that absolutely isn’t true, but the bosses may very well believe her. If she’s able to use that authority over all matters Facebook to force you into going along with her, it could be troublesome in the long run, so you might want to involve yourself somehow if that seems like a possibility.

  5. Wilton Businessman*

    I tend to keep my work and personal lives separate. That being said, I do have a couple people from work on my FB friends, but that’s because I would have no problem going out and having a beer with them. You can also accept their friend request and unfriend them in a couple weeks without them being alerted.

    1. Emily*

      This used to be my practice in professional and social circles on Facebook. It can backfire if someone goes to share something on your wall or something and finds that you’ve disconnected them. At that point, if they asked you about it, you could still explain using the principle in options #1 or #3 (or blame it on a technical difficulty, but that’s less convincing), but I think the Friend-er could wind up feeling more snubbed and miffed than if you just hadn’t accepted their request in the first place.

    2. Anonymous*

      Some third party applications that overlay on Facebook – like FB Purity and Social Fixer (and I’m sure a few others) – will tell people that their friend list is now missing person X and they’ve been unfriended. So it isn’t as concrete as “they won’t be alerted”.

  6. Adam V*

    I would probably say “oh, I don’t use Facebook for work-related things, I try to keep it only to my close friends” and decline her request.

    Also note that people can “subscribe” to your posts, even if you’re not friends, so be sure you keep all your posts private if you don’t want people reading them!

    The only potential problem I see is if there’s someone else at work, who you’re much closer to, and they friend you on Facebook and A finds out (and gets upset). Still, you should be able to fob her off by saying “well, X and I like to meet up for drinks after work, and catch movies on the weekends, so we’re not just colleagues, we’re friends as well”.

    (Note for myself: I have several current and former coworkers and supervisors as friends on Facebook – though it’s much easier to be friends with bosses when you no longer work for them!)

    1. Liz*

      Wow. I’m kind of surprised to realize people think about Facebook this much. I try to do a general “I have this person at about the level of interaction for posts that he or she has me…” check every once in a while. I would probably notice if a page is always blank – and adjust my settings to be the same to avoid annoying or oversharing someone who has limited me – but I sure wouldn’t ask the person about it.

      It’s only Facebook.

      1. Anonymous*

        Er. Lot of people tend take things more personally…for them its not “Its only Facebook” but the relationship itself.

  7. Michael*

    #3, and invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn, which you use for professional relationships

    1. Ariancita*

      This. I would never add people and then just use lists to block them out of certain things because FB has a history of changing their functionality a lot which in turn changes privacy controls which then end up exposing things more broadly than had been previously anticipated. LinkedIn is a great way to redirect that request to more professional and neutral territory.

      1. Alisha*

        I agree with you both that LinkedIn is preferable. At the job I held for quite a while, it was exciting and confusing because I basically watched social media become wildly popular with the younger folks on my team over a span of just a few years. And we then had to adjust our social media policy when a couple of them did things like make sexual comments about client LinkedIn photos, and post work secrets they were forbidden to reveal on Twitter. : (

        The place I left that job for (mistakenly in hindsight) had the type of culture Alison warns against in her response. Some people emphasized that befriending them on Facebook first thing was an unofficial “top priority” for new hires. But at that time, I had a two-month-old account with top privacy settings and 19 friends, so I didn’t feel okay doing that – particularly because I used the FB as a platform to discuss LGBT issues with my fellow LGBT peers. Outing myself at work before I was ready (happened during a happy hour, with two people dogging me relentlessly about my personal life) was deeply painful to me, as that’s something I do on my time, when I’m comfortable with it. A mutual colleague of ours was also outed as lesbian at that time and it really stung because it’s so inappropriate to out a person behind their back. Not working there is a good thing in retrospect, for the reasons Alison outlines, as well as the outing reason.

        1. Alisha*

          There was an upside to all this though, lest I be too curmudgeonly. One, I began doing advocacy stuff again when I was laid off, and two, it caused me to consider non-profits generally in addition to corporate workplaces. I have an interview with an awesome nonprofit in the education sector coming up real soon! : )

    2. K.*

      Exactly. My LinkedIn and Facebook profiles have very few people in common – for me, Facebook is social, LinkedIn is professional. (Twitter is kind of a mix.)

  8. Rob*

    Good advice and options!

    Our president added me!! And then made a point of mentioning it. “Damned if I do, damned if I don’t!”

    After much deliberation, I added him like I have with other co-workers, to a list which I limit and control content. My role includes social media management. Also I conduct myself responsibly online as I would in public.

    1. Janet*

      Yeah, I have a special list called “Professional” and I limit what they see – it’s been very easy to keep on top of it through the security changes.

      One thing I did notice is at my old job it was fine (none of the higher ups used facebook) but at a newer job I tried to maintain a “no FB at work” rule and then discovered everyone in my department was friends with each other and the boss. Constant conversations about check-ins and funny photos and status updates made me feel like I was out of the loop so I ended up friending everyone and adding them to the list. No problems since then.

  9. SrRecruiter*

    There is another option which is to create another FB profile that is for professional use only. I have my personal facebook profile (first, maiden, last name), and my professional profile that is completely separate (first&last name, Senior Recruiter for abc co.). On the professional profile I post about company happenings, like our company’s profile, like our vendor’s companies, post articles that mention our company, etc.

    1. A Bug!*

      It is my understanding that having multiple personal accounts is against Facebook policy, and that if they notice such a violation they can suspend all of your accounts. So please tread carefully!

      There’s also a policy against using a personal account for a business profile, and I’m not sure if your professional account might violate that one also. From your description it sounds borderline at best.

      I’m sure you’ve looked into these and are fine with whatever risk there might be, but anyone considering opening up multiple accounts in order to manage friend requests should be aware that it’s not technically permitted under Facebook policy.

      1. Max*

        The rule against using a personal account for a business profile isn’t meant to target people using their own personal account for professional purposes, but rather to stop the epidemic of business owners creating a personal profile in the name of their business rather than using a Business Page. However, the ban against a single person having multiple accounts does most definitely apply – and even if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be a good idea because it would still be quite easy for people to find your personal profile.

        1. A Bug!*

          I guess I am wrong about the business thing! Thanks for the clarification.

          I had looked into the account options a while ago and I thought there was an actual policy against operating a business account as a personal account, but I guess they just encourage you to open a business account instead and won’t bug you unless you use it to get around the restrictions placed on business accounts?

  10. Diane*

    My manager and I agreed not to become Facebook friends. We both post to our nonprofit Facebook page, so we pretty much had to talk about it since it’s clear we are both active users. There’s no bad blood between us. It’s just a work/life separation.

    I’m friends on Facebook with most coworkers, but I do not friend managers [whether they are mine or not]. My coworkers cannot see my tagged photos or posts from others on my wall.

    1. Diane*

      That’s supposed to be nonprofit’s. We work for an association that has a Facebook page.

  11. KayDay*

    This is good advice. I’ve generally found that most people in the work force my age, who have had facebook for over 6 six years, generally all try to limit facebook to their personal friends only–and they would all understand option 3. But then there is the vocal minority of my peers who would be deeply offended that someone they work with won’t be facebook friends with them. It’s a tough call.

    There is also an option 4 for the those truely dedicated to online networking: Make a second facebook profile for work friends. This is way too much work for me, but I know some people do it.

  12. J*

    You can also change how people can find you on facebook. I have mine set so that people can only find me through search if they know my personal email address or are friends with someone I am friends with (I think…I might have even turned that one off). I work in higher education and did this when students started sending me friend requests. If anyone else searches for me, I don’t show up at all, so I don’t even get awkward friend requests!

  13. EJ*

    I have a “Work” Facebook for just this reason. Colleagues get added to this Work Facebook, and only added to my Personal Use Facebook after a.) I’ve left and/or b.) Have become actual friends with them and wouldn’t have to freak out when the security settings inevitably change who of your friends can see what.

  14. fposte*

    The other thing I’d urge? If you are going to explain things to her, make it short and casual. This isn’t an explanation that anybody’s owed, you have no need to feel bad, and it’s not important enough to take up time. If you sit down seriously it’s going to make it into a bigger deal than it is, whereas a breezy “Yeah, I saw that, thanks, but …” as you cruise past to get coffee is about the level of consideration it deserves.

    1. A Bug!*

      You can also send the other person a Facebook message at the time you decline the request. As I understand it, even if the other person has blocked non-friend messages, if you currently have a pending friend request from that person, you can send them a message.

      Then it’s just a simple “Hey, I appreciate the request, but I like to keep my work life and my personal life separate. See you tomorrow!”

      1. fposte*

        Oh, excellent idea. I’m a Facebook abstainer still, so I don’t know about these options.

  15. Lexy*

    Ugh, so glad I don’t work somewhere where this would be an issue! My last supervisor (we rotate supervisors based on project) and would talk about Facebook but never added each other because… duh.

    I am friends with ONE coworker on FB and that’s only because we carpool together, sitting in a small space for 1.5 hours a day you get pretty personal… I knew he could handle the awesome responsibility of seeing pictures of my dog :)

  16. Katrina Prock*

    I once had a coworker friend request me, I accepted, she stalked and defriended. It was kinda funny.

    I’ve used every excuse listed and then some to avoid friending coworkers on Facebook, but more recently, I’ve taken to being straight forward. ”I prefer not to friend coworkers. I do have a LinkedIn profile, if you’d like to connect that way.”

    Also, I’m inclined to believe Max is making an excellent point. Their culture may be very close because they actually are, but the long standing employees may not expect you to start intertwining your work and personal lives. Sounds like it’s just Female A.

    Good luck!

  17. Sophie*

    I encountered a similar situation when I first started my current job. I readily accepted requests from people I liked and trusted, but I was wary of the requests from a couple of people who were 1) not trustworthy with personal details 2) posted WAY too often. God bless the lists. I put all my coworkers, except 2 that I really trust, on a work list. Thankfully my boss didn’t try to friend me, he maintained that boundary on his own.

    In the OP’s situation I would go with #3 first, and if A pushes it, then put her on a list.

  18. merc*

    At one job I was at, the culture was very close knit, and I accepted my then-boss’ friend request, thinking that’s what you’re supposed to do. She would make snide comments on my facebook to the point where I felt like she was micromanaging me outside the office too! I deleted her sometime later, and it just got worse from there.

    So honestly, I would just keep them separate. It’s just easier that way. However, if you feel you must, make another Facebook profile for work and networking and direct them to that profile.

  19. Steve*

    This is an interesting topic. The mores of social media are still being negotiated, and there is some inevitable shaking out occurring. If I were doing it all over again, I would separate work and personal life as much as possible. However it is too late for that, and so I separate my postings according to audience, which FB also allows for.

    I am FB friends with some of my people, and LinkedIn connections with an overlapping set. The most important thing is to not allow these connections to control the working relationship, that still has to come first. For example I noticed that one woman defriended me, but as I had just terminated her I could certainly see where she was coming from and took no offense.

  20. Kiribitz*

    “basically, don’t feel pushed into something you’re not comfortable with.”

    This should be ingrained into everyone’s decision making process – whether it’s friending a co-worker on Facebook, being asked to participate in group bonding experiences, or business activities on the shady side.

    1. A Bug!*

      “business activities on the shady side”

      I can’t stress this enough! There was a young woman locally that actually got jail time for fraud because she followed her boss’s instructions without questioning them, even though she wondered about their legality. Even though it was only the boss who benefited from the activities, it was the young woman who got convicted because it was her activities that constituted fraud and they couldn’t prove the boss’s involvement.

  21. Mike C.*

    DO NOT DO #2!

    Holy crap, how many times has Facebook’s privacy settings changed without notice? How many times have their privacy settings defaulted to the lowest settings available? So the next time this happens, you have to make sure that you fully understand what ever new or convoluted system they’ve set up before someone from the company side sees something they don’t like or didn’t know about you.

    If you want to keep your company out of your Facebook, don’t friend them!

  22. Tater B.*


    Did I mention NO?

    Never again will I add a co-worker on Facebook. Even though I only post random thoughts (and my world-famous QOTD), I still felt that clicking “accept” made them just a little too comfortable with me. Basically, it felt like we were spending way more than 40 hours together. When I quietly deleted a few who wouldn’t be quiet about my life, you would have thought I ran over their foot. They stayed mad until they left the company.

    That was also the bright side of getting canned: I happily went through and deleted every single one of ’em. Good riddance! LOL

  23. Michael*

    I had a friend get fired for having people on her Facebook. She posted things about her day, they didn’t like it and took it to their boss, a very, very unfortunate event.

  24. Julie*

    If you’re moderately tech-savvy and willing to double-check your settings when you post stuff, you can create a FB friends “list” just for work contacts, and then whenever you post something, set the post visible to exclude that list. (Click the button next to “post,” select “custom,” and where it says “Hide this from these people or lists” enter your work list or contacts.) Keep in mind that FB will remember the settings from one post to the next, but if you ever decide to make something more public, you’ll have to reset the visibility settings the next time you make a post.

    If you do this, you’ll be able to see all the stuff they’ve shared, but they won’t be able to see anything except what you want them to.

    1. Mike C.*

      Sure, until the privacy settings are changed or reset again. Feel like risking your job every time Facebook makes a change?

      1. Julie*

        I’ve been quite successful using this structure, but I’m pretty hawk-eyed when it comes to settings changes. I’ve been working with a “coworkers” facebook list for 5+ years and have never had any problems.

        Then again, I’m also the sort of person who opens my Facebook to my parents, so most of the stuff up there is the sort of thing I wouldn’t mind my parents (or my boss) seeing. I just like keeping it closed off for the work-personal life separation.

      2. Anonymous*

        Yes, you shouldn’t post anything on Facebook that you think might get you fired regardless of you are fb friends with your co-workers or not !
        Like you said – privacy policies may change – how can u be sure they’d never see them?

  25. Anon*

    I decided from the beginning that I wasn’t going to friend co-workers or other professional contacts (that’s what LinkedIn is for). I also don’t post about work, I haven’t liked my company’s page, and I don’t even list where I work on my Facebook profile.

  26. kristinyc*

    At my last job, Facebook had a lot to do with one of our products, so I ended up friending a lot of coworkers.

    At my current job, I’m only FB friends with one co-worker (and she initiated it). If someone I like leaves the company, I send a request, but I generally try to keep those parts of my life separate (and that’s what I tell people). Most are fine with that.

    One thing – if you go the “Oh, I’m not on FB much at all…” route, make sure you’re NEVER on FB at your desk at work!

  27. Charles*

    OP – “I just don’t like to broadcast everything I post to the entire world.”

    Sorry to be such a luddite; but, whether you like it or not everything you post IS out there. You don’t totally control whatever is on a server that you don’t own. So, unless you create some sort of alias it IS out there as being posted by you. The only sure-fire way to make sure it isn’t available to everyone is to NOT post it.

    1. Jamie*

      I like the way you think, sir. It’s nice to see I’m not the only curmudgeon on the topic. If it’s posted there’s a risk – if the risk reward ratio for you is such that you don’t mind that – then post any thing…but there is no such thing as privacy on the internets.

      Now, if only those kids would stay off the lawn!

    2. Joshua*

      Yep! A good rule to live by is that once it’s been posted to the Internet, assume it will be there forever and ever in one form or another, just waiting for the day to pop out and bite you in the ass.

      I don’t conduct business from my Facebook page. It is clearly a personal page. Thus I’m pretty loose with what I put there. If an employer wants to take issue with something I have there, I don’t want to work for them.

    3. OP*

      What I meant by that is, if I want to post letting my friends and family know that I am attending a family member’s graduation and am very proud of them, that’s just not necessarily something I want coworkers to have access to. I’m just not close enough with anyone yet to share things like that.

  28. A. Nonymous*

    Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see the problem with adding co-workers on Facebook. The way I see it, I have absolutely nothing to hide. I don’t post inappropriate things and I have added or accepted requests from several former professors, older relatives, supervisors and co-workers. Granted, my current position is at a non-profit with 8 employees, so we pretty much know everything about each others’ lives anyway…

    1. Anon*

      It’s not about having stuff to hide. (And, by the way, that is THE anti-privacy “argument” that I hate the most.)

      It’s about keeping my personal life and my professional life separate because that is my preference. My co-workers are my co-workers; they are not my friends, and I like keeping it that way.

      I like being able to choose what I reveal to whom, and when and how. I also find that it avoids drama and hurt feelings to have a blanket policy of “I don’t friend co-workers.”

      It just really irritates me that when people say “I prefer my privacy” and others immediately jump to “what do you HAVE TO HIDE?!!!” In most cases, it’s not about that at all.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      A. Nonymous, you can certainly see, can’t you, that just because you don’t have things you want to keep private, others might? It might simply be the personal details of their lives that they don’t wish to blend with work, as Anon says, or it could be political views, or religious views, or being GLBT, or a difficult time with a sick relative, or all sorts of other things — which aren’t necessarily about “hiding,” but also might not be things they feel like sharing with coworkers.

      1. Anonymous*

        Perhaps I should have thought more carefully about my phrasing. Obviously, I can see that other people feel differently and I can certainly understand not wanting to reveal details about sexual orientation, religion, political views, or other sensitive topics to co-workers (especially in a larger company). I should note that my professional experience is pretty limited, as I am 23 and in my first job out of college. Also, as I said, I work in a very small and close-knit office, so it has never really been an issue for me personally.

        Anon, I certainly didn’t mean to imply that other people have things to hide. I simply meant that my co-workers are very open with each other, so anything I post online is something they already know about and vice-versa. I would never accuse anyone of having something to hide or be offended if they chose not to connect with me online. I’m sorry for any offense!

        1. Anon*

          No worries, A.Nonymous, and apology accepted. I think it is important to realize that not every workplace is the same. Some are more open about personal things, like yours, and some have a workplace culture that encourages more separation of work and personal life.

          Then, too, not every person is the same. Some people do make friends with co-workers, some prefer to keep such relationships at more of a strictly professional level.

          For myself, I do have a few things about which I prefer to be discreet in the workplace. For one thing, I’m Wiccan, and while most people where I live probably wouldn’t have a big problem with that, I just prefer not to take the chance until I know someone a little better. For another, I volunteer for a local science fiction convention, and I just don’t want to have the conversation about how “weird” that is. So it’s not a matter of hiding it, per se, so much as it’s a matter of being choosy about who I tell, and how and when.

      2. OP*

        Exactly. I definitely have nothing to hide, as my life is actually really boring compared to most people my age. I just don’t feel like I am at the point with this small company where I feel comfortable sharing things outside of work with them.

        It’s especially hard because at work they are all brothers, married, or best friends, so they are always posting on each others things and talking about it. I just don’t want me denying A’s request to look like I am trying to hide anything. This just isn’t a work environment where having the work-life separation is normal.

  29. Janet*

    You can create a separate FB account with a different email address and different user name. Only use this account for work “friends”.

  30. Marie*

    Oh, god, I’ve encountered this awkwardness so many times. To avoid it, as soon as I start at a new job, I block every one of my coworkers on Facebook. If somebody asks if I’m on Facebook, I tell them straight out that I am, but I’ve blocked everybody I currently work with, because I want to keep Facebook separate from my employment. As soon as one of us doesn’t work for the company, I’ll happily friend them. I haven’t yet met somebody who was offended by this — usually it ends up sparking a conversation on how smart it is to keep your professional life offline — and I think anybody who might be offended by me declining a Facebook friend request is placated by the fact that this is a blanket policy, and I’m declining everybody and not *just* them.

    And I keep true to my word! If a coworker leaves the company, or I do, and we were friendly, I’ll friend them — and keep them on a high level of privacy until I have a better idea of how they conduct themselves online. And, in general, if somebody has over 100 Facebook friends, I keep them on a high level of privacy no matter what, because I kind of assume they do not have the same level of social boundaries that I prefer.

  31. Anonymous*

    I’ve had a great time staying in touch with ex-coworkers via FB, but at my last job, it was a huge mistake friending a group of coworkers who weren’t particularly close friends. I found that it was weird at times to see my coworkers private lives, and that it was really unpleasant when I realized that I was pretty much on the outside of the primary social circles, looking in, especially when a few people went and unfriended me while remaining friends with everyone else. I had to remind myself that I had plenty of close, rewarding friendships, and that it didn’t matter if some people I didn’t click with dropped me. The funny thing is that after I left that job, I ended up getting my current job thanks to one coworker who didn’t drop me, and he was telling me (without knowing anything about the unfriending stuff) that a bunch of the people had also asked him for help trying to get in at my current employer, but he wouldn’t help them out because their cliquishness wouldn’t fly at this company!

    Even though I really like my new coworkers and feel like I lucked into a much better fit, I’m not going to be in any rush to try friending any of them! :)

  32. Ellie H.*

    This question nearly could have been written by me – I have exactly the same scenario in which practically everyone in my office is related or has some previously standing interpersonal connection. They are all FB friends. I have really high privacy settings (I am supposed to be unsearchable, but people sometimes find me anyway, and I don’t have the energy to care about it anymore). Honestly, I don’t really want to be FB friends with my coworkers, even though I am very open with them (like we talk about our personal lives, sex, underwear, etc. . . . it’s basically an all female office) and like that relationship. But I feel antisocial because of this reluctance!

    I think ignoring and saying you don’t use FB too much is by far the best option. No need to make a dramatic deal about it.

  33. Anonymous*

    I don’t have much to add about the Facebook portion of this post because everyone else has pretty much stated everything I could think of.

    To the OP I do strongly encourage you to evaluate the company if all the existing employees are relatives or close family friends. You say you want to do well so you can move up in this company as it grows, but speaking from experience in a company like this your growth options may be limited. In my experience most of the good promotions will be filled by the relatives already in place and their positions will get filled by other family members that appear from nowhere once the company is running well. The non-family members will be the ones who are hired for their skills and will end up with all the responsibility but will not receive the praise.

    Your experience may differ (and I hope it does) but I would make sure you are realistic in your expectations.

    1. OP*

      I have definitely thought about this, but I am going to stick it out for at least a few years to see if this happens. The second a decision is made for a promotion based on blood and not merit, I will be looking elsewhere, and I already know the next place I work will be a place where life and work are not so intermingled.

  34. Tax Nerd*

    I’m curious as to how many people add former coworkers, after they’ve left a job? I don’t have a single current or former coworker as a Facebook friend. (I discuss politics on Facebook, and I never want to get into it with people at work.) But occasionally an old coworker will pop up in the “Someone You May Know” sidebar, so I assume that they looked me up, since we don’t have any mutual Facebook friends.

    I was friendly with them while I was there, in that we’d go to lunch, and chitchat, but I didn’t hang out with them outside of work. I’m mildly curious about what they’re up to, since I’m now in a different city, but I’ve only known about their personal lives to the extent they were willing to discuss it at work, and vice versa, so I’m not sure I want to break that barrier now. But maybe I’m being overly curmudgeonly.

    1. Anonymous*

      “Someone You May Know” suggestions comes from you or your friend allowing FB access to gmail/yahoo contacts. Really annoying at times

  35. Cassie*

    I work at a university and some of the graduate students I work with do send me FB friend requests. If they are new students, I tend to just ignore the request – I just feel it’s awkward, especially since I’m not a student like them, I’m their advisor/boss’s assistant and there will be times where I may have to give them bad news (such as “the boss has decided not to employ you for the next quarter” – which I have had to do before).

    Once in a while, I will accept a friend request from a student – they tend to be slightly older (no first-year students, for example!) and more responsible (project leaders, etc). Or it’ll be a student who is about to graduate and leave. I don’t use FB much – once in a while, I’ll update my status, but otherwise, I use it mostly for games. And stalking acquaintances :)

    I’m also in charge of our dept’s FB page – I’m not sure if my students know that it’s me running the page, though (I don’t post my name on the page)

    My coworker friend is on FB (although she doesn’t friend anyone at work, and I wouldn’t want to friend her either) – and she doesn’t friend any students. Alumni yes, current students no.

  36. Editor*

    Facebook is for family and a few very close friends for me. Like other posters here, I don’t trust Facebook not to change privacy settings or otherwise insert new code with unexpected consequences. I like being able to keep in touch with family members who are far-flung without much effort, but I’m still worried that Facebook will find some really unpleasant way to monetize content I provide for them and don’t own. Facebook isn’t a service, it’s a business, and I don’t particularly admire its management style.

    I prefer to use LinkedIn for work-related stuff, although I’m not on there often.

    A century or two ago, friendship was conducted in a different way — if someone invited you to use their first name instead of their surname, it was a compliment. Having someone at work ask to be connected through facebook seems to me like being asked to invite them to dinner at my home — or in terms of long ago, being asked to allow them to use my first name when I might not be ready for them to do so.

    Even though I’m increasingly careful about what I post anywhere on the Internet, Facebook seems more comfortable to me when I’m just talking to family members and people I’ve known for years and years.

  37. MaryTerry*

    The timing on this posting is perfect! Yesterday at lunch with about 10 coworkers I made a comment about my husband signing into my facebook account, a colleague pulled out his iPhone to search my name and said “there are about a hundred ‘MaryTerry Smiths’ coming up – how do I know which one you are to send a friend request”? One of the other people told him I don’t ‘friend’ coworkers. Most everyone seemed fine with that except one person. I just confirmed we were Linked In.

  38. Bob G*

    Doesn’t Facebook still have the option of finding friends from your contacts in an address book? I know some of the friend requests I’ve received over the years had to come to me because I didn’t have any relationship with the person other than an email correspondence for work.

    Is it possible that the person simply did the export of contacts and then sent a request to everyone it found?

  39. Anonymous*

    I friended my coworkers only to block them from practically everything I have. They can post to my wall (but not see anyone else’s) or send me a private message.

    I don’t let them see anything because one time one of them let it slip that he tells the boss everything when a coworker doesn’t tell the truth. If a coworker calls out sick over a few days and posts on Facebook that she is actually on a mini-vacation with friends, the other coworker will report that back to the boss. Sure the coworker should not have posted it, but the other one should have also kept his mouth shut. While I’m upfront, sometimes I don’t specifically say why I need off, and therefore, I don’t need someone tattle-tailing to the boss.

  40. mh_76*


    When your FB page switches to the horrible “timeline” format (or if you have already made the switch), double check your “Activity Log” – I found that posts I’d deleted from my personal account were showing up again…with their original security settings retained. I’m going through and re-deleting (or just hiding) them because even though there was nothing that would even make my late obsessive-compulsive-Catholic grandparents blush, I did delete them and I’d like them to stay deleted (or hidden).

    (yes, I’m one of those who has 2 FB accounts…I don’t do much with either so the FB corporation can “go play in traffic”… Honestly, how likely is FB to “catch” everyone with multiple accounts? There are multiple people with the same first-last name combo., as relatively uncommon as each name is)

  41. Anonymous*

    I know you can’t do this now, but every time I start a new job, the first week I’m there I methodically go in and find every close coworker and block them so that they aren’t apt to find me. If they can’t find me, they can’t ask to be friended. Has worked wonderfully so far.

  42. Anonymous*

    There’s one person in our small office that friends everyone on Facebook and then reports to the boss about their postings. I put up with it until she took my profile picture and posted it on the company website without asking me. I unfriended her and will never friend a co-worker again. I think there are other websites that are better suited for professional/work contacts.

  43. jen*

    It’s my ‘personal’ rule that I don’t friend co-workers. I ignore them and when I have been asked I just say that it’s nothing personal but I like to keep my work and private life separate.

  44. anon*

    you don’t have to add a coworker or anyone for that matter if you don’t want to and don’t like them, your facebook account, your life = you have control!!! you can always be diplomatic about things if the topic comes up and make some excuse, like you don’t go on facebook much so you don’t see/respond to much on there, hell she might not even mention anything- as if people sit there waiting for someone to accept their friend request LOL, life goes on…

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