Should You Add Your Interns on Facebook?
It goes without saying that maintaining a good employer-intern relationship is integral to the success of an internship program. Part of that relationship is healthy management practices, as outlined in our guide Ten Tips to Effectively Manage Interns. The other side of the token, however, involves building rapport with your intern team, whether that means hosting an office happy hour or planning a student-friendly team building activity.
Everyone agrees that building a professional and personal relationship with employees and interns helps create a happy workplace, but less agreed upon is where to draw the line. Namely, should you “friend” your interns on Facebook?
The National Federation of Independent Business says yes, but only if your interns make the first move, the reason being to avoid seeming like a spy. Suzanne Lucas of CBS News says no, unequivocally: “When you are with people from the office you are at the office. Please don’t turn Facebook into the office.” Small business evangelist and Forbes blogger Ty Kiisel offers a more measured approach, outlining his thought process for adding someone to any given social network.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about employers befriending interns on Facebook, and there shouldn’t be—company cultures, internship programs, and management styles all wildly differ. We can confidently say that in some scenarios, adding an intern on Facebook will end in embarrassing or incriminating reveals from either side; in others, it’s a friendly gesture that may even increase productivity.
How do you know what your specific situation allows? Here are some guidelines to help you weigh your decision:
DO add an intern who’s moving on to greener pastures on the strength of his or her experience with your company. It’s a good way to stay connected after the internship ends and helps you ask for referrals for future vacancies.
DON’T add a potential intern for the purpose of snooping on their profile: it’s illegal to consider race, religion, national origin, age, pregnancy status, marital status, disability, or sexual orientation in any hiring decisions—information that’s all readily available on Facebook.
DO add an intern if you’re friends outside the workplace. In the case of most small businesses and startups, managers, workers, and interns hang out with each other, so it only follows that you would be connected on Facebook as well.
DON’T add an intern if your goal is to keep your professional and personal entities separate—or if you’re in danger of posting inappropriate content. Another alternative is to adjust your account settings so that you can select what coworkers and interns are able to see.
DO add an intern if your interest genuinely lies in getting to know him or her better. Social networking amongst coworkers is becoming increasingly common, especially with younger generations that build camaraderie online as well as in person.
DON’T add an intern if you have suspicions about his or her personal life affecting work performance. While those photos of a night on the town may explain your intern’s “sick” day the next morning, disciplining—or even firing—an employee based on that you find online is a legal gray area. Conduct a meeting in the office if you want to address problems at work.
Photo credit: dan taylor via Creative Commons license