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Are You Blurring The Boundaries Between Your Personal and Business Space Online?

When we spend 38, 40, or more hours a week with people we are bound to make friendships, but how do we keep our personal lives from creeping into our work environments?

Are you jeopardizing your future?

When you meet other employees you have common interests with, it can contribute to having a positive work environment, but can also blur the lines between the boundaries of work and social life. With social media contributing more and more every day, it’s critical to ensure those boundaries are clear and the relationships at work don’t endanger your friendships, and vise versa.

How do you stay true to yourself and your friends or colleagues, but still be practical and enthusiastically focussed on your career? If you want to be successful in your chosen field, you can’t allow emotions to get in your way, nor can you allow business decisions to influence your personal choices, or influence your family and friends.

Separating your career and your personal life, especially through social media channels, can often be tricky. There will be times when you have to choose between one or the other, a fact you should never feel guilty about.

Making friends at work or school is normal social behaviour, and discussing common interests, in person and online, is great, unless it interferes with your work and job future. What you post on the internet is there forever, so make choices that do not impede your career, and remember you are not personally responsible for the choices, actions or attitudes of your friends, family or co-workers.

Using your work to help a friend can be detrimental to your future. If your friendship doesn’t involve your career in any way, great, but what if it eventually or suddenly does?

Let’s say your friend wants you help them promote or sell their product or service through your business network or the company you work for. Or they want you to recommend their business to your online network, what should you do? It can often come out of nowhere, and if you are successful in your work it will happen at some point, especially if you have always been positive and encouraging in what your friend does. Your friend may assume you would love to work together, but you know it is not the direction you wish to take, or the right decision for the company you work for.

You may like what your friend makes or does, but it may not be the best fit for the business. Mixing business with friendships can go horribly wrong and it is your choice not to get involved. So be courageous and true to yourself, communication is key. Be honest, be tactful, but you must tell your friend what your situation is and not be afraid to say no. Offer help in other ways, help them with their business, by all means, but don’t mix the two. Be a friend, but also be professional in your own field.

I have a golden rule not to add work colleagues as friends on my private networks, LinkedIn is a professional network, but my personal Facebook and Twitter profiles are my private space. I do manage a number of business pages and very conscious not to allow my personal opinions to slide into their business space.

You may well be connected on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social-media accounts with work colleagues and personal connections. Now this makes it much harder to separate your work from your personal life and remember, once it has been shared, it’s there forever. Consider very carefully what you post before you accept connections from your coworkers, or adding friends as work connections.

If you often post or contribute to content that is politically, religiously, socially or otherwise detrimental to the company you work for, even if it’s on your personal account, it can backfire on you at work. So don’t post anything in poor taste or that does not coincide with the views of your business and you won’t have anything to worry about. Should you feel that you must express your opinions, ensure you post privately or to only your personal friends, and be very cautious about who your friends and connections are among your work colleagues.

Consider a work friend who may sometimes take advantage, asking you to finish projects on your own so they can attend social functions, or expect you to always be willing to cover for them. Posting check-ins, comments and images online of their outings and fun times while you hold the fort, will become an issue. This is a frequent occurrence in hospitality, tourism and retail industries (among others) and your friendship may well be at too great of a cost. If it is negatively effecting your own work, put a stop to it; you need to ask yourself why. Learn how to say no. If your work is important to you, you need to explain how doing them favors is affecting you, and let them know that outside of work you will still be there for them. If they are a true friend, they will understand.

If you are ambitious, you have goals, and to achieve them sometimes means leaving others behind. If you have developed relationships with your co-workers and created friendships due to your shared ambitions, promotions can be hard. They may become resentful, or you may be placed in the uncomfortable position through your online connection, when you are suddenly their supervisor. You may even begin to overcompensate or be overly accommodating in an effort to prove you are still friends.

Change is imminent and you need to remind yourself that the work comes first, it’s not personal, it’s work. If you are good at your job and remain professional, respectful and appreciative of your coworkers, it will all fall into place. But if the resentment slides into your personal space online, or face to face outside of your work environment, you may find yourself in a precarious situation and be forced to make choices you don’t want to make. Take a good look at your actions and priorities before discussing things with your friend.

Achieving the perfect balance of home, work, family and friends can be a life long chore, but it doesn’t have to be. Decide what is appropriate to share at work or privately and find a way they can all mesh together, it doesn’t have to be onerous.

Remember those embarrassing images you posted on Facebook at school, or of your first boyfriend? Today, potential clients, colleagues and recruiters see beyond the fancy resume or interview presentation and are known for scanning social media channels in order to get an idea of who you really are and how you conduct yourself on a social level.

Social media is a web of data and connections and can be terrifyingly troublesome, here are some tips to help you maintain your professionalism.

  • Be honest with yourself and those around you.

  • Never post anything you don’t want your boss to see.

  • Be selective with who you connect with and don’t confuse business colleagues with personal friends.

  • Use your channels wisely, if it is set up for business, keep it business and keep personal channels private and for personal use. (review your privacy setting regularly as things change)

  • Avoid sharing emotional, religious or political content, if you wouldn't do it at work don't do it online.

  • Never make work comments on your personal channels, and don’t make personal comments or opinions on professional networks or work channels.

  • Check your spelling and grammar and don’t post silly acronyms or hashtags.

  • Do your research and ensure you stay professional, incorrect information will just make you look incompetent.

  • Respond to comments from friends and family politely and considerately, even the negative ones.

  • Remember your goals and don’t do anything to jeopardise them.

  • Make sure everything you post fits into helping you reach your goals..

At the end of the day, find a way to make your work and personal life spaces work well for you and retain integrity. You never know what lay ahead of you. Don’t jeopardise your future.

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