The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

October 26, 2012

Should you friend your boss on Facebook?

(Continued)

Rothbard's research has also found significant upsides to effectively bridging the divide between life in the office and life on the Internet. In a separate study she is working on, she found that people seen as "integrators" are ultimately viewed as better performers in the workplace. This means that someone who successfully blends their personal online image and their professional in-person image could get a boost on the job.

"There's basic research in psychology, all around face-to-face, that shows that_provided that the exchange of information is appropriate_the exchange of information leads people to build stronger bonds with each other," Rothbard said. "If I share more with you, you like me better. And if you share more with me, then I like you better. It's a cycle."

But doing that well online is harder than doing it in person. It's not just a matter of keeping embarrassing photos or hot-button political views off your online profile; there's another, more systemic challenge, according to Rothbard. We don't receive the bounty of feedback cues from an online audience that we do face-to-face_the nods, the eye rolls, the glances at the clock_that subtly help us tailor the amount and type of information we choose to share.

Yet as more people come of age on Facebook, the line separating personal and professional relationships is becoming more ambiguous.

In the Russell Herder survey, more than 20 percent of about 1,000 online respondents said they are Facebook friends with their work supervisors, and nearly half of those employees were the ones to initiate the friend request.

Not surprisingly, the survey showed a distinct correlation between comfort levels and age. Seventy-two percent of young people between the ages of 18 and 34 said they are comfortable being Facebook friends with their bosses, whereas mid-career workers between 35 and 54 tended to think connecting with their bosses on Facebook would be "inappropriate."

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