Facebook has over 1 billion members. Incredibly, this means that approximately 1 in 6 people on the planet has a Facebook account.
However, Smartphones and tablets can allow us to make spur of the moment posts and uploads so easily and combined with the public broadcast nature of Facebook it has great potential for disaster, especially where managers are concerned.
The CIPD has reported the TUC’s description of UK Facebook users as ‘3.5 million HR accidents waiting to happen’.
Should I ‘Friend’ with my boss?
If you get on well with your boss it can be extremely tempting to send them a friend request. They may know your partner, children or friends and it would be a fairly natural extension of the relationship to add them to the 100 plus connections that you already have on Facebook. However think carefully before you do so.
Even if you get on like a house on fire your work relationship is still an unequal one. Part of their job is to tell you what to do and part of yours is to go ahead and do it. Or in social terms it means that your boss maintains an air of professionalism and you laugh at their jokes – in theory anyway.
The reality of this relationship may hit you in the face if any one of a number of events were to occur. You may face disciplinary proceedings, be turned down for a promotion, or not receive a pay rise. If any of these were to happen it could be extremely awkward having your boss as a Facebook friend, reading your status updates. Or what about pictures of you on drunken nights out that either you have posted or been tagged in?
And look at it from your manager’s point of view. They may prefer to keep their personal and work lives separate and may even resent the attempt to blur the lines between the two.
Can I be sacked for something I post on FB?
The short answer is, possibly. Virgin Atlantic took disciplinary proceedings against 13 cabin crew staff when it was discovered that the employees had joked between themselves about the company’s passengers, who they described as ‘chavs’. The employees were later sacked.
HR magazine, Personnel Today, has commented on several cases that have gone to employment tribunals.
In Whitham v. Club 24 Limited t/a Ventura an employee posted comments about the company’s relationship with a client and the tribunal found that they were entitled to discipline her (although not to sack her), as there were provisions in the employee handbook relating to social media.
In another case, Crisp v. Apple Retail (UK) Limited, an employment tribunal decided in the employer’s favour, mainly because the company had very clearly communicated that damaging its brand (including on social media) could result in disciplinary action.
The crux in employment tribunal cases so far has been whether the employer has clearly communicated their social media policy. If they have and comply with their disciplinary procedures then the odds are in their favour.
You could create two Facebook profiles and have one for ‘work’ and the other for your personal life. Alternatively join another social network, such as Google+ that offers ‘circles of friends’, allowing you to keep a distance between different groups. However the easiest option may just be not to send your boss a friend request in the first place. They are unlikely to mind and it may save you a headache later.