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Blurred Lines in the Workplace


Workplace dynamics have become increasingly problematic thanks to social media making the lives of employees and employers easily accessible online. Can this intermingling of personal and professional be detrimental to the workplace hierarchy?

blurred lines

(Photo Credit: Jason A. Howie/Flickr)

Privacy is no longer a given now that we’re in a day and age where people make their personal lives public for all to see and examine. From an individual’s perspective, sharing personal aspects of one’s life isn’t such a big deal when your audience contains family and friends. However, when you consider a corporate setting in which the owner of the company is sharing such content and his or her employees are viewing it, then things become a bit more complicated for different reasons.

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Scenario 1: The owner could be showing her employees aspects of her life in an effort to relate to them and show a more compassionate side. In this case, here are the pros and cons:

Pros: The employer is taking the risk to let down her walls and allow her employees to get to know her personally, which, nowadays, is highly regarded and respected by most employees. Typically, this type of dynamic is common of small businesses and/or tech companies that pride themselves in being trend-setters and employee-focused. However, everyone is not necessarily created equal in a professional setting. Con: The employer opens herself up to criticism and, possibly, loss of respect if she posts something her employees find unfavorable or offensive. It is already difficult to manage your “friends,” but it is even more difficult to try and manage your enemies.

In the corporate world, superiors are supposed to be considered “untouchables” on some level so that a sense of authority is maintained. Otherwise, everyone considers themselves equal to the people they report to and rank goes straight out the window.

Scenario 2:  Opening up too much to your superior can create a sticky situation if they get a glimpse of your less professional side. So, just as it’s tricky for an employer to put her personal life on display, it also gets complicated for employees to share aspects of their personal lives with their colleagues and superiors. Here are the pros and cons of this scenario:

Pros: You and your boss have similar interests and passions that you openly share on social media. Perfect! Sharing a common interest with your boss can be a major plus and can even lead to a healthy bond outside of the workplace, too. Just be careful to understand the difference of being buddy-buddy with your boss outside of the office, versus being his subordinate when you’re on the clock. Understanding and respecting those relationships can lead to a fun, easy-going, and enjoyable dynamic in and out of the office. Cons: You like to post often about your strong political or religious views, or you like to share your affinity for partying hard (which is probably the reason you’re always late to work) … and your boss can see it all. In this case, having your boss as a friend on social media is not a plus because your over-sharing will probably get you in trouble or annoy your boss so much that he deletes you. And yes, you have every right to do as you please in your personal time; however, if you’re showing up late to work, not meeting your numbers, or slacking off at work, then your boss will eventually connect the dots and find a reason to get rid of the bad seed (a.k.a. YOU!). Be mindful of what you post online, especially when your employer is one of your friends.

So then, what’s the happy medium when it comes to intermingling your personal life on social media and your work life? Here are five tips to help you solve the dilemma.

1. Privacy settings – Always make your personal social media accounts private if you post content that is questionable from time to time. A great way to manage your friends list on Facebook is with Lists. You can learn more about Facebook Lists here. 2. Send request only when you’re 100 percent sure the person likes you (and you like them). 3. Accept requests only when you’re 100 percent sure you like the person (and they like you). 4. Don’t add your boss, unless you’re mature enough to keep business and personal separate. More about that here. 5.  Be professional and mature – No matter who you decide to add or not, a great way to prevent any problems on your end is to always be professional and mature when posting to social media.

Tell Us What You Think

Has social media affected the dynamics at your workplace? If so, share your experience on Twitter or in the comments section below. 

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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