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Should you friend or follow employees on Facebook and Twitter? Do you let them friend or follow you?
If you haven't yet encountered these questions, it's bound to happen sometime soon. Everyone wants to be friends these days--even with their boss.
Social media can build a friendlier working relationship and help you assess your employees' needs. But it can also lead you to act intrusively and aggressively, causing a few legal problems along the way.
So before you follow employees on Twitter, first take a look at these pointers.
1. If you follow one, follow all. And if you accept one, accept all. If an employee wants to reject your invitation, that's fine (and let them!), but don't let your follow list become evidence in a discrimination or wrongful termination lawsuit.
2. Think before you react. A statement may seem defamatory, but it might just be opinion. Or it might be protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act. Talk to your attorney before you discipline anyone.
3. Keep it light, but professional. Twitter and Facebook are a great way to connect with employees and let them know that you're a real person. But lines can get blurred, so try not to say anything you wouldn't say while at work.
4. Safeguard employee privacy. We all have a tendency to say a bit too much on the Internet, but as an employer, you shouldn't supply the gossip mill. Keep private employment matters private.
If the above tips seem a little daunting, then you may not want to follow employees on Twitter or friend on Facebook. Avoiding the legal pitfalls of doing so takes a significant amount of self-awareness and time. It's not for everyone.