• Big 4

    How Should You Handle a Partner’s Facebook Friend Request?

    By | March 16, 2017

    Ding. It’s a friend request. You’re so popular. One problem. It’s from one of your engagement partners. Awkward.

    Now you have a dilemma. Are you obligated to say yes? Or, maybe, you let it sit in the unanswered request pile for eternity and pretend you never saw it. Weigh the options careful and may the odds be ever in your favor.

    Sparking this discussion is CEO David Kalt’s blog on Wall Street Journal this week that encouraged executives to get to know their staff by requesting their friendship — on Facebook. He said:

    Nearly every Monday, we welcome several new hires. Their first day is relatively normal by “first day at a new job” standards. They participate in training sessions. They shake hands with lots of new people. They shadow the customer engagement team.

    And then it gets weird: I friend them on Facebook.

    David claims that Facebook connections help you understand and empathize with your people and, meanwhile, they offer a way for execs to humanize themselves to their subordinates. Theoretically, even though you control their lives, being Facebook friends could make someone less on edge when they interact with you.  

    Still, the handful of positives does not outweigh the potential of invading too far into someone’s personal life. Does a partner:

    • Really want to hear staff complain about work on Facebook?
    • Need to see what questionable activities staff participate in after hours?
    • Want to comment on your political rant?

    I think not.

    David is the first to admit it could be disastrous:

    Of course, this tactic – like most – has the potential to backfire. You might end up with information you wish you didn’t know. Your attempt to relate to younger employees by, for example, using a Bitmoji, could be misconstrued. But at the very least, you’ll open the door for more meaningful conversations and stronger relationships.

    While meaningful relationships and building a great rapport with everyone you work with is great, maybe this isn’t the right avenue. What about going out to lunch instead? I have a feeling that in this instance it’s unfortunate that the generational technology gap is shrinking. A decade ago wondering if it was a good idea to friend your boss wasn’t even an issue since it didn’t happen in the first place.

    Before you click accept, don’t forget to think long term. Everyone has those friends that you can’t unfriend but probably should. And, what do you do when you jump ship and get out of public?

    Or, on the flip side, what should a partner or manager do when their first and second-year staff stay their obligatory year or two in public accounting and quit, is it an automatic defriend? Should this be part of the termination protocol? Sure, why not! Oh, and they should wipe their phone while you’re at it too.

    It’s a slippery slope, my friends. So, where do you draw the line?

    Image: Unsplashed / William Iven

    • Tax Nerd

      I just ignore the request, and then have a private conversation with them at the office that I’m never Facebook friends with coworkers (or clients). Never. I explain that my Facebook page is full of political stuff and pictures of my pet, and no one who isn’t similar-ish to me wants to see it. I don’t want to only be Facebook friends coworkers who agree with me, so the rule is no one from the office.

      If they want to connect via LinkedIn, though, that’s fine. (I’m a little weirded out when candidates try to add me as LinkedIn connections, so I ignore those unless we make them an offer. I understand why they’re looking at my profile if I’m interviewing them, which I see that some of them do.)

    • dumpus

      honor the chasm that differentiates “work friends” from “real life friends”; work friends get LinkedIn. real life friends get facebook. only time work friends migrate from linkedin to facebook are when either of us quit and move on to our next jobs and wish to take our work friendship to the next level.

    • SouthernCPA

      I turn down all requests from co-workers on facebook… no matter what their position is. I am friends with two current employees on facebook and that is because I was personal friends with them before we became co-workers.

      Everyone else I work with goes on LinkedIn.

      Now… once a person leaves the firm? I’ll gladly accept their request.

      • iamthelolrus

        I have the exact same rule

    • Story time! When I was working at the CPA review emporium that shall not be named, I friended a bunch of students. I’m still friends with a few of them all these years later.

      This one guy must have forgotten he friended me. So he calls the office out of the blue one day and says he needs an extension on his course because [insert various tragedies here]. He must have had 20 different excuses. The problem? I saw album after album of him partying in Cancun and hanging out on boats and generally fucking around. I don’t give a shit about any of that and would have given him an extension if he’d been honest but he failed to say “hey so, basically I never opened the book in the last year.”

      All that to say, THINK about who you are connected to and what you’re sharing. If you absolutely feel like you need to accept the request, then put them on Restricted. I’m about to do that to Colin so he doesn’t cuss me out for posting cat videos when I have an article to write.

      • Big4Veteran

        Social media is the fucking devil.

        • iamthelolrus

          I’d argue that it’s just something that’s *really* easy to use irresponsibly

    • Big4Veteran

      First of all, GREAT article by Megan. A very relevant and important topic in our profession and modern age. And interesting, which is the most important thing. I hope some of the other guest writers on this site take note.

      Second, excellent comments by my esteemed colleagues dumpus, SouthernCPA and Tax Nerd. I agree with their overall policy (i.e. LinkedIn is for current colleages, not Facebook). I once got burned by friending someone on Facebook who I was currently working with. When something was said on Facebook, this person (who I wrongly thought was my real friend), decided to take the opportunity to earn brownie points with her boss rather than maintain our “friendship”. Never again. If a co-worker or someone I currently do business with sends me a friend request, I will never accept it. And if they ask me why, I’ll tell them straight up. We can be LinkedIn friends though.

    • Midtier Mope

      If this is now a thing, set up a throw-away Facebook page specifically for work peers. If someone asks why you have two pages, tell them that the other (real) one got hacked and you no longer have access to it.

      • SouthernCPA

        My wife is a HS teacher. she used to get friend requests from students all the time, which she turned down every one. Her FB is on extreme lockdown as regards to privacy.

        At one point she set up a “safe” FB page and let her students friend her on there, but one night she got drunk and posted something to the wrong one, and thank god she caught her mistake about 3 minutes after… but after that she said no more.

    • sludgemonkey

      I once checked on the Facebook page of an employee and found out she was banging TheHorniestPartner

    • Andrew Y

      Other than 5 people I know I can trust, I refuse any requests from people in my firm or other large competitors (who may one day be coworkers). Nothing good can come of them finding out where i lean politically, socially which is about 75% of what I talk about these days. I never bring it up, and usually just delete the request. No one has ever sent a follow up. my guess is they figured it out.

      If they want to connect, they can do it through the Linkedin channel where I rarely comment or even look at.

    • LeftShark Consultant

      Ignore it, pretend you never go on facebook.

    • Adam Hill

      I was watching something this weekend and the kid (around 18-20) asked “Does anyone still use Facebook?”. I just kept clicking back 10 seconds and listening over and over, hoping that it turns into myspace 2.0.

    • As dear old Nancy would advise – “Just say No!”
      Unless the person was a friend beforehand or it’s later into your career and you’ve actually become good friends, there’s no way accepting a friend request while still working together is a good idea. Besides being able to look in on you, they can also look in on other coworkers you’re connected with, depending on how open they have their privacy settings when sharing posts and tagging you. So even if you aren’t too concerned with what you post, you could inadvertently be sharing info on a coworker who’d rather not have that info shared. So, yeah, no…