Dear Work It Out,
So I found out my employee blocked me on Instagram yet followed me on LinkedIn. I think I get it, but make me feel better about it?
Here's something I feel pretty strongly about: With very few exceptions, bosses should not follow their employees on personal social media. If you've ever heard that gifts in a professional setting should only flow down the managerial ladder, on social media, especially Instagram and Facebook, it goes the other way.
If you're wondering which platforms are fair game, first stick to those used specifically for professional reasons, like LinkedIn and maybe Twitter. For other platforms, like Snap and TikTok, it's probably best to leave your employees unfollowed unless they bring it up.
When you work in an industry where promoting your work on social media is a prerequisite of the job, the line between personal and professional gets pretty blurred. One minute you're posting an Instagram story about a cool project your team worked on; the next, it's a video from the concert you danced at late into the night.
That's all well and good — until your manager sees that concert story from Sunday night on Monday morning when they're also noticing you're clearly bleary-eyed and moving slower than usual. And now they're wondering whether your busy social life is affecting your productivity in a way they might not have if they had never seen your Instagram.
No matter how friendly you are with your boss or how cool they are, there's still the fear that you could be judged poorly based on something you posted on social media. Is it fair? No. Are there plenty of hip bosses who can delineate between the personal and professional? Yes. But why guess?
The reward of having one more person to add to your follower count doesn't even come close to outweighing the potential professional downside. Blocking may seem like a harsh way to go about making sure your boss's eyes don't fall on your posts, but short of making your whole account private, it's the best most of us can do.
So why doesn't this apply to LinkedIn? Even though it's gotten weirdly personal lately, it's still a professional network. You can add your employees, your bosses, your best friend and people you emailed with once five years ago — it's all fine.
While your employee may have blocked you on Instagram, adding you on LinkedIn shows they're not trying to burn any bridges. They're simply trying to draw some healthy boundaries.
Work it Out is Make It's revived advice column for employment-related conundrums. Have a pressing career concern or question? Email me anonymously at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions may be edited for length and clarity.