Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Whether your managers should “friend” subordinates may be gender based.

I’ve written before about whether you should allow your employees to connect with each across the various social networks (here and here).

Last week, The Washington Post reported on the upcoming publication of a white paper by Wharton School professor Nancy Rothbard, entitled, “OMG My Boss Just Friended Me.” In this white paper, professor Rothbard argues that an employee's decision of whether to accept the friend request made by a manager or supervisor depends on the “creep” factor—the gender of the person making the request:

The boss’s gender plays a role in an employee’s willingness to accept the invitation. In one experiment, Rothbard found that participants were more likely to accept Facebook friend requests from female bosses when the women disclosed more information about themselves online. When male bosses disclosed more information about themselves, however, participants were less likely to want to virtually connect with them.

What does this mean for your business's social media policy? It means you have lots to think about when adopting the right social media policy for your organization. For example, social media use has a generational component. Baby Boomers have a much different conception of how much is appropriate to share online than Gen-Xers, who, in turn, are more guarded than Gen-Yers and Millennials. Your social media policy has to account for these generational differences.

If professor Rothbard is correct, your social media policy also has to account for gender differences. Needless to say, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. As professor Rothbard’s whitepaper illustrates, however, these issues are highly nuanced, and need to be understood and accounted for in your workplace.