Think twice before you waltz with the bosses on social media; it could lead to heartache

Sushil Kumar wanted to be a ‘textbook’ boss, someone whom employees loved, not merely respected. He was chummy with them on the factory floor and also on the online space. All friend requests were accepted and likes and lols littered his home page.

One evening, he ticked off an errant employee with whom he’d had a fun-filled tweet session earlier that day, over a task not completed. The employee was upset that his social media ‘friend’ treated him like a regular employee. On the other hand, Sushil (name changed) felt his authority as boss was being questioned.

This is an increasingly common scenario. People break basic rules of social media etiquette and get friendly with people they should not get overly familiar with. Office and personal spaces have merged and boundaries have blurred. This makes it difficult for anyone to function in a professional manner, say etiquette experts.

Subodh Sankar, who runs Atta Galatta book store and café in Bangalore, says being friendly with employees in the online space comes with its share of perks and quirks. He once approved a sick leave application only to find the employee concerned posting a photo performing a paal abhishekam for his matinee idol! He let that pass, but another employee whose wall was full of porn found himself without a job.

“I have a lot of blue collar workers in my store and these are people who are discovering social media on their phone. They come from semi-rural backgrounds and take great pride in the fact that they are ‘friends’ with their boss. They delight in sharing news about their workspace on Facebook and Twitter. But, they know that in the work space, the boundaries are clearly demarcated,” he says.

These lines get blurred more often in new-age companies where there is no defined boundary. Ganesh Chandrashekar, senior editor, Wordplay Content, says that as a start-up company, they believe in being well connected outside of work as well. “The entire organisation is well connected through social media (FB, Twitter, Instagram…),” he says. However, some employees (“a dying breed”) feel the need to draw lines, he adds. Ganesh says the system works well only when there is a two-way trust. “I don’t stalk my employees online when they call in ‘sick’,” he says.

Former techie and now film writer G. Sai Shyam is friends with his current and previous bosses on Facebook. The trick to have a great relationship on social media is to not get down and dirty and attack someone personally, he says. “In fact, my current boss found me on Twitter.”

A place where many people slip up is when they start post work-related angst on social media, little knowing the impact it will have on their current and future job prospects. Sai says it does not help cribbing about work on social media. “You might have the liberty to vent about a bad day at work. But, does cribbing on FB help the situation? It’s better to discuss it with the boss face-to-face,” he says.

Sometimes, when you are posted in an alien land, it helps to build bonds, online and offline, with colleagues and bosses, says software professional S. Dasarathi. “When I was posted in the U.S., my social circle was very limited. I was friends with my manager on social media, and it was great fun. It helps that I never use FB to criticise anyone or post anything to do with my profession. It’s just a light-hearted extension of my life.”

However smooth such a relationship may be, it is best to respect boundaries. There is little need to be friends online with bosses, says life coach, grooming and image consultant Chhaya Momaya.

“It is necessary for bosses to keep a distance. It is important to be warm, but very often, being friendly is disastrous,” she says.

Social graces

- Refrain from making comments about work

- A boss is a boss, even if he is a ‘friend’ online

- Nasty posts have a way of catching up with you

- Your posts are a reflection of you. Create the right impression