To friend or not to friend?

Separating your personal and professional lives in a Facebook world


Q. A colleague asked me to become friends on Facebook. I know you’re a “yes” person, but I really want to say “no” to this invitation. I want to keep my personal life private, but knowing this particular person, if I don’t accept, they will be highly offended and I’m afraid it will affect our working relationship. How do I handle this delicate situation?

A. “Begin with Yes” doesn’t mean you never say no. In fact, if you’ve read the book you already know that I encourage people to say “no” in order to say “yes” to appropriate boundaries for themselves. So you can feel perfectly fine about saying “yes” to keeping your personal life a priority and say no to this Facebook invitation.

That said, the wonderful thing about Facebook is that you can have a couple different profiles. Perhaps you could use your current one for close friends and family, and start another one for new Facebook friends, business contacts and others who just aren’t close enough to be on your “personal” page.

Then you can honestly respond to the friend request by saying “I use this Facebook page for my close friends and family (believe me, you don’t want to see the baby or birthday party pictures), but join me on my other Facebook page (include the link), which is where a lot fun conversations are beginning to happen. I hope to see you there; I promise no vacation pictures will be posted, and thanks so much for connecting with me.”

Q. My boss just got arrested for DWI. Given his prominence in the business community, it was pretty big news in the papers and everyone is talking about it. Do I say anything to him when I see him, or just pretend like I don’t know anything about it and say nothing?

A. Saying “yes” to the elephant in the living room is almost always the right thing to do. Pretending you don’t read the newspapers seems ridiculous, and saying nothing actually seems unkind. Here’s what I’d do: I’d send a simple note saying you’re sorry he’s going through this difficult time, and if there is anything you could do for him, or the company, you stand ready. Short, simple and sincere.

And although you didn’t ask, I’d add one more thought. Please consider your note (or face-to-face brief conversation if you prefer) as your acknowledgement of this event. Then get back to work. Don’t get caught up in any internal or external gossip, and do your part to restore confidence in your company and your mission.

Q. My fellow employee is going through hard times. I saw him taking copy paper from our office to his car. I know he is struggling financially and probably took it for his son who is going into high school. Do I say anything to management or keep quiet and hope it was a one-time thing?

A. You are (I assume) not working for security or inventory control, and haven’t been asked to keep an eye on your co-workers. That said, I truly appreciate your dilemma and understand it raises issues that are touchy and even complex.

From what you’ve told me, it sounds like you have made an assumption based on very little information. In fact, what appears to be theft may in fact be the evidence of someone who works from home doing company business. Given that a rush to judgment wouldn’t really serve anyone here, I would not advise reporting your co-worker.

And if by chance you are working for security, write back and I will reconsider my answer.

Paul Boynton, president and CEO of The Moore Center, Manchester, is also a personal coach, corporate consultant, motivational speaker, host of the television show and radio show, "Begin with Yes" and author of the book by the same name. His most recent book is “Beginnings – A Daily Guidebook for Adventurous Souls.” He can be reached at

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