What to do when your boss follows you on social media

By Emma Gross, employment partner at city law firm Spencer West

Social media, iPhoneThere are benefits to connecting with your boss on social media, but it takes a sensitive touch and some thought to strike the right balance when you are managing your online relationships.

It is possible to have a personal life online whilst also making the right impression on the people you work with.

Connecting with your boss and your co-workers online can help you build rapport, deepen your offline relationships and separate you from your colleagues. However, you need to take steps to manage your online presence in order to remain appropriate at all times.

You must be aware of what level of sharing, and what content is appropriate. From political differences to religious beliefs and mutual connections; the information you put into the public domain can lead to discrimination and harassment or create awkwardness or tension at work.

Privacy settings

One of the great things about most social media platforms is that they do have fairly detailed privacy settings that you can adjust, both for how others represent you online, but also for how individual connections see your content.

Facebook allows you to set custom privacy settings so that not all friends can see the same level of information about you. You can also adjust your privacy settings so that you need to approve what photos and statuses friends tag you in before they can appear on your timeline.

Instagram also offers some control, and you can limit what people are able to see by giving selected followers access to only your grid posts rather than your stories. Make sure you read up on all the settings available to you so that you can make the most of them.

Present yourself as you want to be seen

As well as giving approval to posts that friends might tag you in, it is worth going back through old content that you have shared and cleaning up anything that doesn’t represent who you are or how you would like to be perceived.

Your social profile tells a story of your life so not posting at all isn’t necessarily the answer but being thoughtful about what you share is always sensible. I recently came across the phrase “Google before you Tweet is the new Think before you Speak” and I think that is sound advice to take. It only takes one controversial post or inappropriate picture for you to become the subject of workplace gossip, or even disciplinary or legal action in extreme circumstances.

Highlight your best attributes

If your boss follows you on social media, make the most of your new connection and post things which highlight your interests and pursuits outside of work that you are proud of. Show off your personality, especially if you take part in any positive social action, volunteering or other community work. It’s a very attractive quality to have an active life outside of work.

Your profiles are an opportunity to highlight your skills, interests, and network, along with the fact that you’re savvy with social media. If you are capable of creating dynamic content and interesting stories that generate high levels of engagement, that can be of great value to an employer.

Be intentional and engaging

Once your boss or your colleagues are following you, you might as well make the most of that more personal connection both online and in person. Interact with the content they post, pay attention to what is important to them, and use it to strike up engaging conversations in the workplace. Refrain from getting too personal, or doing it too often, but acknowledging their holiday photo, or asking how they enjoyed a restaurant they posted about can build a stronger relationship.

Feeling uncomfortable?

If at the end of the day you are someone who is a little more private, and your boss following you makes you feel uncomfortable, politely but clearly explain that you like to keep your social media for family and friends. You could offer to connect on a professional network such as LinkedIn. It is perfectly acceptable to want to keep social media and work separate.

Whatever you decide to do, try not to leave a friend request hanging around with no explanation. Be polite and explain your reasons to make sure your boss understands them. Ultimately, it’s your profile, and your choice.

About the author

Emma Gross Emma was admitted as a solicitor in 2012 having graduated from the University of Birmingham and completed her LPC at the London College of Law. Emma headed up the Employment Department at her previous Marylebone firm before joining Spencer West. Keenly commercial, she has handled complex employment tribunal cases, negotiated difficult settlements and advised on fair and reasonable redundancy procedures. Emma also advises on all aspects of data protection and GDPR compliance.

Before training as a solicitor Emma spent two years working in Human Resources at a prominent charity in London. This valuable experience enables her to provide legal advice from an informed business perspective when advising and assisting both employers and employees.

Outside work Emma enjoys comedy, theatre and musicals and the occasional glass of red wine!

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