Here’s How to Connect with Work Colleagues Online — Without It Being Weird

Social media rules
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Starting a new job generally means a bunch of adjustments.

You’re not only settling into a new role and new responsibilities but also getting used to the company’s policies and procedures, the office culture and your work schedule.

There are also all the people to meet and get to know. And that’s where things can potentially get tricky, especially if you’re a little socially awkward like myself.

In today’s social media-friendly world, it’s easy to jump right on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other channels to connect.

But before you do, you may want to consider these tips from employment professionals.

1. Don’t Post Questionable Content

Bryan Chaney, director of employer brand at Indeed, said once you connect with a coworker or superior on social media channels, be aware of the fact that they can lurk and learn from what you post.

“Do think before posting your controversial opinions or the scantily-clad Instagram selfie,” he said.

Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs, advises thinking long and hard about how you use a channel like Facebook or Instagram before accepting a friend request from a coworker or boss.

“If there’s even a slight chance they will see something offensive, inappropriate or questionable from you, don’t accept the request,” she said. “There are some topics that are best not brought up with colleagues or superiors over social media. Anything related to politics, sex, religion or other hot-button issues could be in the don’t-go-there zone.”

2. Consider the Company Culture

“Whether or not to friend your colleagues on social media is dependent on workplace culture,” said Ladan Hayes, senior career advisor at CareerBuilder. “Accepting colleagues’ friend requests can build rapport, but on the other hand, being Facebook friends with everyone in your office may make you feel like you’re constantly under surveillance.”

3. Keep Things Professional

Reynolds said individuals can take advantage of sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as platforms to prominently showcase their professional sides and interact with others in their field, thus building their networks.

“Always remember to maintain a professional persona,” Hayes said. “Building a network throughout your career is important, and workers today often use their social media sites to keep in contact with past and current connections.”

4. Filter Who Sees What

Chaney said he tends to connect with just about everyone he’s ever worked with.

“This is because I know how to filter my posts and set up Facebook lists so I’m sharing specifically with the right groups of people,” he said.

5. Separate Work and Social

“You might consider using one social media channel for professional connections and others for casual or friendly connections,” Reynolds said. “For example, I use Twitter and LinkedIn almost exclusively for professional connections but Facebook mainly for friends and family.”

And to answer the ultimate question: Do you have to accept your boss’s friend request?

You absolutely shouldn’t feel obligated to do so, Chaney said.

“But watching her or his behavior on social has been a good cue for how best to respond and react to their personality in the workplace,” he said.

If you decline the request, Reynolds said it’s good to clarify why.

“It’s completely alright to explain to your boss or coworker why you didn’t accept their request — [for example] that you only use that channel to connect with close friends or relatives — so they know you aren’t blowing them off or being rude,” she said.

And if you do friend your supervisor?

“Don’t forget to block your boss on your (cough) sick day when posting pictures of yourself at the lake,” Chaney said.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She thinks social connections among work associates should feel organic, not forced.