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I consider Facebook to have information that is personal and that I only share with close friends and family. However, in my new workplace I’ve been asked several times for my Facebook username and/or have been friend requested and I don’t want to sound rude by telling them that I don't want to add them as friends.

Any suggestions on the way I should handle this?

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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related (possibly a duplicate): Should we maintain the difference between personal and professional contacts? –  gnat Jun 3 at 15:48
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*comments removed* Remember what comments are for. –  jmac Jun 4 at 23:34

10 Answers 10

up vote 98 down vote accepted

Tell them that you keep work relationships out of Facebook as a personal policy (and suggest they connect with you on LinkedIn instead, if you use that for your professional network).

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This. A thousand times. That's how it should be and I'm pretty sure you will not be the first one to reject the friendship on facebook for the same reason. –  Pierre Arlaud Jun 4 at 8:32
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I tend towards this answer but I can definitely see how someone might take offense at "not being a good enough friend". –  Benjamin Gruenbaum Jun 4 at 10:53

I have a simple rule for Facebook:

  • We must have shared a meal together.

If you like this coworker enough to go out to eat with them, you can add them (possibly in a Restricted list as Jake covers, if it was more of a one-time whole-department thing.) If you don't, you're not really friends.

The odd thing about this is that the rule spares everyone's feelings. If you say "I've been thinking about our relationship and I don't think we're friends, just coworkers" they will feel bad. If you say "I created an arbitrary rule before I ever met you and at the moment you don't qualify according to this rule" they don't. Sometimes they even say "That makes sense" or "I like that rule, I might start using it." No-one has ever told me I should change my rule. Brains are funny things.

What really counts is that the rule exists, not what it is. It could be "I have to have known you 6 months" or "we have to have met before I was 12 years old" or "at least two of my current friends have to have already added you" or "we have to be so close that I know your children's names" "we need to have attended at least one wedding together" - really anything that sounds reasonable and impartial. It makes it easier for you to evaluate these requests and easier for others to accept being rejected for not meeting the impartial rule.

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@KateGregory Obviously, the rule can have exceptions which you don't have to mention in cases when you cite the rule. For example, I have friends that I am extremely close with that I have never shared a meal with because it is a friendship over distance. –  called2voyage Jun 3 at 18:16
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The "at least two of my current friends have added you" fails if all of your friends implement the same rule. :D –  Almo Jun 5 at 14:27
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Be careful - rules like these can backfire. If you say you must have shared a meal (or a couple of drinks, which is what most people would probably really say) then you can expect the loneliest/most persistent colleagues to start badgering you constantly to perform this activity, at which point you'll get forced into exactly the same position: either refuse to do the activity (we aren't friends), or invent yet another arbitrary rule to avoid or defer it. –  Aaronaught Jun 7 at 13:38

I’ve been asked several times for my Facebook username and/or have been friend requested and I don’t want to sound rude by telling them that I don’t want to add them as friends.

Easy. Just add them as friends to a “Restricted” list as explained here:

When you add someone to your Restricted list, they'll only be able to see your Public content or posts that you tag them in. So if you put your boss on your Restricted list, post a photo and choose Friends as the audience, your boss (and anyone else on Restricted) won’t see that photo. However, if you add a tag of your boss to the photo, we’ll let them know they’re in it and they’ll be able to see the photo. If someone else tries to tag your boss in one of your photos, you’ll get to approve this tag from your pending posts.

More step-by-step details can be found in this article.

That said, adding them to a “Restricted” list might not end the issue when folks realize they do not have access to the full “you” on Facebook. If that’s the case, then there’s no other choice than to just nip the issue in the bud & be honest.

Perhaps just let some co-workers you have a some kind of friendship with be Facebook friends with you & ignore the rest? Your call. But perhaps it’s better to be honest for now than to dance around the issue & let it fester.

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This sounds like a good solution, but aren't you worried about Facebook changing their privacy settings, which seems to happen at least once a year? –  Aaronaught Jun 7 at 13:40

I have a blanket policy - I don't accept Facebook requests from anyone with whom I have a current business relationship through my employer. That can be vendors, co-workers, contractors, or anything else.

If someone sends me a request, I tell them politely "I'm sorry, but it's my policy to not accept friend requests on Facebook for anyone I work with." This hasn't caused me any issues yet; people understand and accept it.

Doing this saves me the trouble of:

  • Worrying about Facebook changing privacy settings;
  • Having to maintain a "restricted" list;
  • Having to explain to people why they're on a restricted list/why they rarely see anything from me (if they figure it out);
  • Dealing with the minefield of "but you added <person X>, why not me?";
  • Accidental over-sharing, possibly at the hands of a previously-unknown mutual friend.
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This is an extremely common, fair and wise policy, which I also adhere to. One exception: I have added (selected) colleagues when they have gone to work in other countries, and been unfriended when they returned to this country. And a personal friend actually unfriended me when he found out I had his boss as a facebook friend (and told me what he'd done afterwards.) This all just seems like common sense to me. Professional contacts should be on linked in (if you have it), not facebook. –  steveverrill Jun 5 at 8:35

I have a pretty large queue of individuals whose request that I friend them on Facebook I have studiously ignored, sometimes for years. And I have done this ignoring without embarrassment either.I don't recall anyone having ever made explicit, repeated requests to me that I friend them on Facebook.

If somebody keeps asking, I keep forgetting :) And I will tell that persistent someone that I make hardly any effort to maintain my Facebook page and that I'll process their request that I friend them "whenever" - There are so many ways of saying "No" without saying "No" :)

Follow-upcomment from Gus "Altough I've done this a couple of times, I believe that I'm avoiding the "sincere" factor that can lead to future misunderstandings or colleagues not being sincere to me as well.."

I am sincere about certain things and diplomatic about others

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*comments removed* Remember what comments are for. –  jmac Jun 4 at 23:39

My policy, when I was on Facebook, was very simple: Friends were just that, friends. I didn't add acquaintances, I didn't add every coworker, I didn't add folks whom I knew by sight but hadn't spent a significant amount of social time with. Period.

You don't have to respond to the request. Just ignore it, and let them deal with it. But you also don't have to feel bad about saying "Thanks, but no; I'm keeping work and personal life separate."

Ditto for any other social medium, unless you're in a situation where you're trying to do business via same... and then I'd suggest a separate account.

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It would be appreciated if downvoters explained their objections. Hard to take them seriously otherwise. –  keshlam Jun 5 at 1:36
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That was a request, not a complaint. I don't care about the points... but negative feedback doesn't help us improve unless it indicates what the issue was. –  keshlam Jun 5 at 12:37

I have a simple way of dealing with that. I have the fortune of having a really good relationship with my workmates, even with the senior one, but since i have a totally uncommon life style, i've decided to not disclose my free time with them.

Since we are Italians, we tend to create strong groups and ties with people we work with, so to not refuse them the friendship on fb, i have created a fake profile as decoy for them. So my "real" profile is one with a nick name, the "official" one is one with my real name and surname.

I've found it really useful even for online privacy and other social network connection, namely Linkedin, and it also doubles as a self-promotion tool for my working life.

Remember: you'll never be "too much" safe online.

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My approach is to have largely disjunct sets of social networks. You're a work colleague? Fine, I'll add you on LinkedIn and Google+. You're someone I met socially and you want to link up on Friendster? Fine.

It does go both ways, I know a lot of people who socialise in a work-like way. They have a small business, they're Amway victims or whatever. If I don't see them as related to my work I will keep them on the social side. Or the black-list, if that's how I feel about them.

I have cross-over stuff, like selling photos and hanging out with photographers, so I run multiple streams/sites for my photography. I generally add those people on both career and social sites, but I also partition them within the site. I have facebook groups for "family", "friends" and "clients", for example.

So my answer to those requests would be "why don't we use LinkedIn" (or whatever).

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My policy, that has served me well, is that I never, under any circumstance, add coworkers to my Facebook "Friends List" until I have left the job.

I can't see any good coming out of adding anyone while we are still coworkers. I don't need anyone monitoring my every move and I don't like having to think too hard about who is in what group when I am sharing opinions and personal thoughts.

What if I decide to post that I'm heading to an interview (which I do occasionally just to test the waters) or if another friend asks me about a recent interview experienc?

Can everyone I work with be trusted with that info? Even if one person can be trusted, they are like a vector by which another (untrustworthy/gossipping) employee could gain access to information I provide.

What happens when a nosy or hostile coworker steals a glance at their phone FB wall while they are distracted etc.

No coworkers...ever...this works for me since I tend to change jobs every 2-3 years anyhow. While I'm at a job, if we really are friends, then we probably don't communicate primarily through FB. If we are friends, we will have each others phone numbers and can text/call/im/email to arrange pretty much anything.

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I only connect with very close friends and family on Facebook.

Sounds acceptable to me.

You could even preface that with:

It's not that I don't think of us as friends, it's just that...


An alternative (similar to HLGEM's answer), is to simply say:

I prefer to keep my work and personal life separate.

HLGEM's suggested compromise of connecting on LinkedIn, if you have a profile, is a good addition - this prevents you from outright declining (which might not come across particularly well), and prevents pretty much any nagging or arguments from them.

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