There’s nothing wrong with simply having a personal policy of restricting your Facebook contacts to family and close friends, and saying so.
Q: I just received a Facebook friend request from my newish immediate supervisor. I’d rather not accept it.
I don’t particularly like the direction this new boss is taking our office, nor do I care for his management style. But really, even if I liked him enormously, I think his request is creepy, and oversteps his role.
Still, he was put in the position by the big global company that recently acquired our small firm, and while in theory we will still have a lot of independence I know that in reality this new manager will have a lot of influence.
Right now my plan is to not address the request directly unless he brings it up in person. What are your thoughts? — Anonymous
A: It’s a slight gamble, but for now you can probably just ignore the request. It sounds like a pro forma gesture on his part, and maybe he’ll forget. But in case he does bring it up, or if you just want to resolve this in a more definitive way, there are a couple of things you should do.
Most important, take this as a handy prompt to make sure you are totally on top of your Facebook privacy settings. You can exercise a fair amount of control over who sees what you post — but if, like many Facebook users, you’ve never bothered to look into that, you’ll have to make an effort. Now is the time. You can find detailed guides online to help you, but at a minimum look for “privacy checkup” under the “help center” icon on your Facebook home page.
While you’re at it, do the same for every social media account you have. Understand the privacy settings and how to adjust them. Even if you are determined to remain permanently unconnected to this manager, you’re better off knowing exactly how to mute, block or otherwise control and limit your online audience.
If the new boss brings this subject up later — or you just want to clear the air — you will have your social media house in order. And probably the best course of action depends on how, and how much, you actually use such services.
I’m assuming you must be active on Facebook or this wouldn’t matter to you. If so, there’s nothing wrong with simply having a personal policy of restricting your Facebook contacts to family and close friends, and saying so. If you don’t really use it often, you can tell your boss that — or just accept his request, mute him and restrict his access to your activity.
Just be careful: If you claim to limit your use to significant personal matters and connections, and the boss can easily see that you have voluminous debates about the Lakers or the new Robyn album with legions of co-workers on Facebook, you might have a problem. So either make sure you’ve got your privacy settings right, stick to the truth or, ideally, do both.
Peer review: the unwanted boss at the wedding
Q: You recently offered advice to an employee who had invited her boss to her wedding, only to have that boss mention the event to a higher-up who (the employee speculated) might now want to be invited, too. My suggestion would have been to take the conundrum directly to the immediate supervisor.
Just ask: “Do you think I should invite the over-boss to the wedding? I don’t know her very well, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings.” If her manager says yes, then the higher-up should be invited. If the answer is no and then it turns out that the higher-up felt insulted, then that’s on the intermediate manager, not the employee. — Richard W. Granahan, Dix Hills, N.Y.
A: I received a number of responses to this item, with a range of attitudes. The most frequently expressed opinion was that the higher-up probably has better things to do and doesn’t want to be invited to some flunky’s wedding in the first place.
It’s hard to say whether such speculation offers any real comfort to someone who is genuinely worried about snubbing a superior, but it’s worth consideration. My response tried to offer the bride-to-be a framework for considering potential outcomes and then deciding which would feel the least stressful. I like the idea of adding a more forceful “maybe you’re taking the interest in your wedding a little too seriously” into the equation. But I’d still make it just one factor in that equation.
This idea of escalating the matter by bluntly questioning the intermediate manager is the other end of the spectrum. It sounds perfectly logical — and that’s why I’m skeptical. Wouldn’t the intermediate manager’s answer reflect her own self-interest as much as anything else? If the higher-up were insulted, is it really plausible the employee could point the finger at this midlevel boss?
Actual human beings with individual personalities and motives are involved, so I’d be cautious about strategies to resolve this or any workplace dilemma in ways that depend on everyone’s being coolly dispassionate. I have no doubt these approaches would work in a strictly rational world. Unfortunately, we all work in this one.