Big Brother and Karen from HR are always watching…

It’s that age-old question humans have been debating since the creation of Facebook 15 years ago… ‘Should I add my colleagues on social media?’

You spend more time with your colleagues than your family, so you’re bound to make a few friends along the way, and friends follow each other on Instagram!

But should there be a limit? Does Karen from HR need to see your #TBT photos of your 2009 trip to Malia or your rant on Twitter about your ASOS order that hasn’t been delivered?

So, what’s the best thing to do? Well, the short answer is: it depends.

It depends on your industry, your colleagues, the social media network and what you actually get up to outside of the office. If like me, you work on social media, the idea of not adding people you know might sound impossible. But it’s still worth thinking about organising your profiles.

Pros of adding your colleagues on social media

Let’s start with the positives. Having your colleagues on social media can be very helpful in getting to know them quicker and better. You’ll find conversation starters and learn more about your colleagues’ interests and personalities. More opportunities for team social events might arise, and you might end up being able to work and communicate better as a team overall!

By having your team on social media, you might become aware of things not always visible in the office including mental health, bereavement or other personal issues which will allow you to support your colleagues within the work environment without them having to spell out what’s bothering them directly to you.

Finally, don’t overlook the long-term advantages of expanding your circle of friends. It’s not just about today, what about several years down the road when you decide to take a sabbatical travelling across Russia? You’ll easily be able to reach out to Sergei, the office manager you worked with 3 years ago, asking him to recommend the best place to eat borscht and pelmeni in St Petersburg.

Side note: Social can also come in really handy when you’re interviewing for a new job. By knowing what the interviewer is passionate about you can get the conversation flowing and build repour. To do this, all you have to do is have a look at their social media, do they play a sport? Are they tweeting about painting?

And now for some negatives…

Remember, if you accept your boss or colleagues on social media, you lose your ‘outside of the office’ privacy. If you comment asking for more info on a job post on Twitter, they’ll probably see. If you call in sick and then get tagged in photos downing shots the night before, they’ll probably see. And, if you try… well, you get the idea!

Having your colleagues on social media might mean you have to change the type of content you post. For example, depending on your company culture, you might need to tone down the 15-minute-long Instagram stories of your rowdy nights out drinking or if you’re used to posting online throughout your work hours, it might be best to keep your boss away from your profile.

This goes the other way too though. You might unintentionally be making your colleagues feel as though they have to change how they behave online by having you as a friend. And this could be a good thing for some.

should i add my colleagues or boss on social media? facebook logo
Dealing with unwanted friend requests

If your boss or a colleague does send you a friend request and you don’t want to accept them, simply wait a few days and add them on LinkedIn instead. Compared to the others, LinkedIn is a more career-oriented social networking platform and probably isn’t full of embarrassing photos of you from school.

Create a golden rule, and stick to it

Have a rule and stick to it. If you want to be selective, chose a network where you will engage with colleagues (LinkedIn might the easiest place to do this) and keep your other profiles closed to colleagues. If you want to be open and accept anyone on social, go ahead! The choice is yours and if anyone hits you with an awkward ‘why did you unfriend me?’ just explain that you aren’t comfortable having your private life shared with your work colleagues. As Virali Dave from Girlboss says: ‘If you want to keep your social media private, remember that you are allowed to draw boundaries.’

I personally keep my Facebook profile completely private and don’t accept anyone from work or industry as a friend. Whereas my Twitter and Instagram profiles aren’t private, and I follow a mixture of colleagues, friends and celebrities. This hasn’t really made me change how I use social media but I believe it’s always best, before you post, to think ‘who wouldn’t I want to see this?’ and assume they definitely will.

If you’re looking for a new job and are worried about what you’ve already put out there on social media, check out our top tips for cleaning up your social media act.

What’s your golden rule for adding colleagues on social media? You can join in with the conversation over on our Facebook Group. You can also get in touch with our expert recruiters for support or advice by emailing or calling 02037514108.