The One with the Friends Request


Dear Dharma,

I hope you can help me find a way out of my problem! I have been working at a new-ish job for over six months.  It isn’t demanding, but it has the potential to become something long term and I would like to stay.  I have picked it up quickly and have gotten good reviews and had no trouble passing my probationary time.

I am quite professional in my work habits, and think that is by far the best way to be, even though it may seem a little old fashioned to some of the younger people.

And that is where my problem starts, my boss is one of the “younger people”.  I have no problem working for someone who is younger than me, and it’s not like I am ready to retire, the age difference is less than 10 years.

My boss wants to be friends.  I don’t mean that in any sort of inappropriate creepy way, just like talk about weekend stuff, personal stuff, and hang out after work.  I have always been able to sidestep these overtures, because it makes me uncomfortable.  To me, your boss is not your friend, you can be friendly, or have a good working relationship, but I treat my friends as a precious commodity, not glorified acquaintances.

Things have come to a head, as she has sent me a “Friend” request on Facebook.  I REALLY don’t want to say yes, but what can I do?  I feel like it is a career limiting move to deny it, but I don’t want my boss to be able to see things I say to my real friends.

Who hasn’t posted when they have had a crappy day at work (or during a crappy day at work).  Would you want to basically go to your boss’ door and say “Wow, this day sucks.  I’m sure looking forward to that bottle of Merlot tonight!”  Or even comment on someone’s latest cat video, if it happened to be on working hours!

How do I not friend my boss and not make it seem like a total rejection?  And on a bigger scope, how can I keep my work relationship on a professional but friendly footing?

Not Enough Space in This Office

Dear Space,

I don’t think the way you handle yourself at work should be considered “old fashioned” – it should be considered professional.  I’ll say it again slowly… proooofesssssionaaaaal.  It’s a bit of a lost art in this generation, non?

Let’s be clear – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a friendly relationship with your boss.  In fact, it’s preferred, right?  A camaraderie, a rapport, it’s all good.  Better than the alternative, that’s for sure.

But friends?  No.  And friends on Facebook?  No!!

I remember once I had a friend who became my boss and then wouldn’t be my friend anymore, especially in front of work people, and I was all like whaaaaat?  I totally didn’t get it and my feelings were all hurt.  But I was 20 and a few years have gone by since.  Now I totally get it.  The role of a boss is that of a boss, not your BFF.

So maybe that’s what your boss needs – a few more years of maturing.

So while you wait for that to happen I would turn a blind eye to the request if it makes you uncomfortable.  You know, in the world of technology, sometimes things don’t make it through. Maybe this was one of them. Hopefully your boss doesn’t call you out on it, but if they do, a simple, “I’m sorry, I don’t Facebook with work people” should do the trick.

And just a side note, not that you asked, but I would caution against posts like “What a crappy day!” and “People suck!”, even if your boss doesn’t have direct access to your profile.  First of all, you don’t know if they know someone who does have access and second it just doesn’t look good, certainly not… what was that word?  Oh right – professional.  Lots of recruiters these days use Facebook and LinkedIn to creep around and this really isn’t the image you want out there.  You never get a second chance to create a first impression.

And how to keep your work relationship on a professional but friendly footing?  You just… do!  Be pleasant, be friendly and positive, and do your job well.  That should pretty much cover all the basis.

p.s. My old boss that wouldn’t be my friend anymore?  Years later, we’re still friends… 🙂


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