For some time now, social media has been blurring the lines between personal and professional at the workplace.

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

And some actions that seem like an obvious no-no to experts aren't so obvious to everyday employees, at any level. Among those actions: bosses and subordinates connecting with one another on social media sites such as Facebook.

"I always advise against it," said Alvaro Hasani, an attorney with labor law firm Fisher Phillips in Murray Hill. "I always feel it's not worth the hassle."

Hasani said the act of becoming "friends" can lead to significant legal issues for both the employer and employee.

From an employer's standpoint, Hasani said, ignorance is bliss. The less a boss knows about their workers' personal lives, the better.

Social media paves the way for discrimination claims in the event of layoffs, he said. Those claims often come down to whether a boss had knowledge of one's "protected characteristics," such as race or sexual orientation, and if the two parties are connected on Facebook, it's much more likely the boss was exposed to such information.

"Even if there are no legal issues involved, there's other issues that both employers and employees need to consider," Hasani said.

If you're Facebook friends with your boss and you're not an everyday poster, it likely won't be too much of an issue. But if you're someone who needs to share their opinion every time they have one, or must post a picture anytime you're out of the house, it's a bad recipe.

If you call out "sick" one day, for example, you better hope no one decides to tag you in their photo from the beach or golf course.

What to do instead

But saying "no" to a friend request on Facebook may be easier said than done, especially if that request is coming from boss to subordinate.

"You can always respond to the request by saying, 'I am saving Facebook for my family. Please join me on LinkedIn,'" said business etiquette expert Barbara Pachter in Cherry Hill. "LinkedIn is a more professional social media site."

And the key is consistency, Pachter said. Any worker, regardless of level, shouldn't accept certain colleagues as online friends and reject others.

According to Pachter, the explosion of social media in the workplace has opened the door to a host of potential problems. People are still learning how to use it in a way that doesn't hurt their career.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at

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