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My old manager is in the process of leaving the company. He is currently still employed there, but his responsibilities have been handed over including the day-to-day management of me. In the meeting where he told us this, he also said to add him on Facebook for networking purposes.

He has been messaging me on Facebook while he is off on sick leave asking things such as:

  • How I'm getting on with my new manager
  • How I was as I sent an email to the team about being off as I was unwell
  • Attempting to have a chat about the other apprentice on my team

It's making me slightly uncomfortable.

UPDATE

I'm not trying to burn bridges as in tech; you never know who you're going to bump into. I am in fact female which I suppose could be increasing my discomfort and he didn't as such tell me to be friends. It was more that in the meeting with myself and one other, there was the certain expectation to do it in the room with him.

EDIT How should this be handled to minimize fallout and not burn bridges?

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    What is your goal here? To stay friends or to stop being uncomfortable at any cost? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Apr 24 '17 at 19:07
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    Facebook for professional networking purposes? Here... let me introduce you to LinkedIn... Unfriend him on Facebook, "Friend" him on LinkedIn and keep Personal and Professional separate. – WernerCD Apr 24 '17 at 22:41
  • This sounds less like a workplace thing, and more like you don't want to be friends with someone. I suppose the problem is that he told you to add him as friends, but without that key sentence, this seems like a social problem more than a workplace problem. Potentially a better title would be something like 'my ex-manager forced me to add them on facebook, what do I do?' – TankorSmash Apr 25 '17 at 2:20
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    It probably depends on why you feel uncomfortable: Do you think he's trying to find out info about your new company; Do you think he's trying to hit on you; Do you think he's trying to strike up a convo, but you just aren't interested? Do you ever want to talk to this guy again? What about "please stop messaging me" or unfriending him? – samiles Apr 25 '17 at 10:50
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    There is one missing point: Was he thrown away or he is leaving on his own? From the three questions I think he was thrown away and that he boxed both of you as his work-kids - people he wants the best for. – Crowley Apr 26 '17 at 9:41

10 Answers 10

35

It sounds as if he is genuinely concerned about you and is trying to make the transition as smooth as possible.

If I were you, I would simply assume the best of intentions for now. If he continues after he has left the company, then that is a different matter entirely.

If he continues this after he has left the company, you may simply thank him for his help. Respond to any further queries with brevity, and if it makes you feel uncomfortable, tell him that you're grateful for all of his help in the transition, but that it would be better to continue to communicate through something other than Facebook.

If you want to keep him as a contact, offer a LinkedIn connection. I would recommend that you do keep in touch with him.

EDITED TO ADD Per Tommy's comment below

"Old bridges can eventually be useful again, so in some scenarios it may be wise to keep certain doors open. Even if they've left the company, you never know who you are going to work for/with again."

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    I agree with this answer, except for the caveat that old bridges can eventually be useful again, so in some scenarios it may be wise to keep certain doors open. Even if they've left the company, you never know who you are going to work for/with again. Offering to "Move to linkedin" is probably better than saying it's "innapropriate to continue". – Tommy Apr 24 '17 at 22:14
  • Sounds more to me like he wants to keep in touch and express concern (like an extrovert would do), but its a bit much for the (likely more introverted) OP. – T.E.D. Apr 25 '17 at 13:41
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My question is what do I do about this?

You can un-friend your ex-manager if it bugs you enough. The question is are you really friends or did you become 'friends' because your boss invited you?

In the future, I might suggest not being friends with the folks you work with on Facebook, unless you are really friends. Even if you don't agree with that, then surely you want to keep your friends and managers separate.

I would suggest using LinkedIn to stay connected with managers and co-workers.

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    And likewise on LinkedIn I won't accept an invite unless I personally know the person or there is a really compelling reason. – Peter M Apr 24 '17 at 15:51
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    +1 for selecting who you really are friends with at work and who are colleagues on Facebook as well as LinkedIn connection advice. – user66194 Apr 24 '17 at 16:17
  • @PeterM I wish 99% of HR / recruiters would follow that practise. I get a ton of invites despite a clear and visible request on my page for them NOT TO DO THAT! Obviously, if I went to an interview unprepared, I'd get laughed at. But HR can apparently do it and it's professional... Sorry, had to vent. :\ – Shaamaan Apr 25 '17 at 10:19
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    You're answering the question, but not solving the problem. Yeah, she said "my ex manager is messaging me on facebook" but saying "put him on linkedin" will create a new question "my ex manager is messaging me on LinkedIn"... – Konerak Apr 25 '17 at 11:13
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    @Konerak if the MGR does not get the hint of the real relationship between the OP and soon to be ex MGR by un-friending him on FB and connecting to them on LinkedIn, I am not sure what else the OP can do to get the point across. If the behavior continues on LinkedIn, I would un-connect from the MGR on LinkedIn too, and put them completely in my rear view mirror. – Mister Positive Apr 25 '17 at 14:25
17

My question is what do I do about this?

You can do lots of things, depending on your reason for feeling uncomfortable.

I read his queries as an honest concern for the company and for you, with perhaps a touch of loneliness. For me, I'd call him on the phone and talk with him, or send him an email asking how he was doing.

But you say you are uncomfortable and perhaps you think he is prying into affairs that are no longer his concern. If that's the case, you can just ignore his messages. Eventually, he'll get the point and stop messaging.

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    Exactly, best way is probably to just ignore the messages. If the red "1" or read confirmations bug you, unfriending will be the next step. – Konerak Apr 25 '17 at 11:15
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    @Konerak you can place a person in the restricted list as well, so he'd still be "friend" but won't see you being online in chat, and/or your status updates, and/or your friends, depending on what you wish. – eis Apr 26 '17 at 9:09
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Mistake #1 was adding your manager to your Facebook friends list in the first place. As the old saying goes, don't mix business with pleasure. By adding him to your Facebook, you have opened a Pandora's box for the guy to be intrusive in your personal life.

I suggest you remove him from your friends list right away (and maybe even block him), and either you can contact him (or wait for him to contact you) and let him know that you feel you need to put some distance between your work relationships and your personal life. If he asks why, just respond in a way that lets him know that your choice is not something that's negotiable. If you like, offer him the alternative of your work e-mail or work telephone number. But you are not obligated at all to have him on your Facebook friends list.

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    Yes I agree with the first part of this.. maybe not the second part. The OP has already opened the door and cutting it off cold turkey could sour the relationship, which may not be the intent; it's a small world. I would play damage control on this one, but for sure, never open this door again. – Tommy Apr 24 '17 at 22:16
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    Facebook has features to separate real friends from acquaintances. I suggest using those features to help guard your privacy. – ThomasW Apr 25 '17 at 4:26
  • @ThomasW it doesn't prevent people from messaging you and asking potentially uncomfortable questions – Pierre Arlaud Apr 25 '17 at 8:14
  • @ThomasW Would you also propose that the OP give this (almost) former manager a key to his home, and have the home painted, indefinitely, to suit the tastes of the manager in case he ever visits??? At a certain juncture, having to tweak Facebook settings to hide stuff from the manager, but make sure others see it, will just become a burden and plain old stupid thing to continue doing. – Xavier J Apr 25 '17 at 14:33
  • @codenoir In a way, ist is not her fault that the "adding as friend" happened - the manager could have prevented it, and is in the more powerful, and more responsible position. After all, that's the essence of being a manager on that level: Getting this kind of thing right. – Volker Siegel Apr 26 '17 at 11:44
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For your manager to help with the hand-off is itself normal and appropriate. But this is the first time in a career for me that I've heard of someone doing so by mediation of social media. One potential innocuous explanation might be the phenomenon of "When you have a hammer, everything begins looking like nails," and FB is to him the goto hub for communication. I'm also concerned that you seem to be sensing something wrong about the situation.

For us as humans pain and feeling uncomfortable can help us cut losses.

If you set your hand on a stove burner you'll get a perhaps slight burn and jerk away in pain. That leaves you much better off than comfortably keeping your hand on hot metal until you smell your flesh burning.

This applies to social discomfort; it can keep us out of worse trouble. I felt very uncomfortable when a woman who had a sad story I would not judge, was bereaved of her three-year-old son and shortly after that divorced by her husband. She tried to rebound into my arms and made me very uncomfortable. My being uncomfortable was good. It helped me stop an inappropriate fantasy relationship from becoming much more of a reality.

As to what I would advise, I would ask him for all further contact to go through usual channels, and be ready and willing to involve HR if it proves a challenge.

One response would be to block and unfriend him, then send an email, Cc'ed to HR, stating that you are not comfortable handling professional endeavor by means of personal social media, and request that any further contact be through channels X, Y, and Z that you're uncomfortable relating via a channel like Facebook, and, at your option ask that emails (or whatever else you approve) Cc the communication to HR.

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    Last paragraph sounds like overkill. At least say to him "Please stop" before you escalate to HR. – Wildcard Apr 24 '17 at 22:12
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    Indeed, CC'ing HR feels like being on the "burning bridges" level. – Volker Siegel Apr 26 '17 at 11:48
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Be friendly and honest at the same time. He is showing concern as a manager would, but also a friend could ask things like that too. Unless he is asking for company specific items which he should know better than to ask, it seems just like a standard relationship. In that case you need to set your own boundaries to what level of relationship you wish to maintain with this former manager. I wouldn't be mean about it, but if you rather just remain a work contact instead of a friend then you would need to nicely communicate that to him. If you want to be friends then continue the relationship.

The only thing to be mindful on is if he specifically asks for things that would fall under proprietary company rights, then he is no longer under the agreement of the company to discuss those things, so keep it generic and don't offer that info.

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You could literally just tell him that you've decided you should separate your personal and professional relationships, and that while you'll therefore be unfriending him on Facebook, he's welcome to add you back on LinkedIn. (Assuming you can be okay with that... I'd recommend not checking LinkedIn often so that if he messages you you don't have to reply in a timely manner.)

It doesn't seem weird to me at all; it's something anybody might do at some point. And it should send him the message that you see him as a professional acquaintance rather than a personal one. And you'll know from whether he adds you on LinkedIn or not whether he's okay with being a professional connection rather than a personal one.

  • I'd go a step further and send him a Linked in invite at the same time as deleting him on Facebook. That makes it seem far less like a dismissal. – Tim B Apr 26 '17 at 9:43
  • @TimB: I avoided mentioning that since it kinda depends on whether the OP is doing this grudgingly or enthusiastically. =P But yes, in the latter case that's a good idea. – Mehrdad Apr 26 '17 at 10:22
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    If you don't want to burn bridges then best to seem at least half way welcoming :) – Tim B Apr 26 '17 at 10:24
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  1. Move this professional relationship to a platform more appropriate for that, such as LinkedIn. Yes, you then quietly un-friend on Facebook.

  2. While you both are employed at the same company, continue any 'conversations' on company e-mail.

  • ("in-friend""un-friend") – Peter Mortensen Apr 26 '17 at 5:00
  • I don't see the value this adds over the other answers already provided. – Mister Positive Apr 26 '17 at 15:53
  • @MisterPositive Thank you for the feedback but there is nothing wrong with this Answer. – Johns-305 Apr 26 '17 at 16:00
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@BlinkRed I'd guess that he likes talking to you and would like to stay in touch after he leaves the group. Perhaps after being your manager, he might feel a little paternalistic. Perhaps he wants insider gossip about how the team is doing in his absence (and how well his replacement is doing his job). But pushing Facebook friendship seems to me a little too much.

Since you feel uncomfortable with it, I'd consider adding your co-worker to the Facebook messages and/or unfriending him (probably after he leaves his mgmt role) but switching to email. In the meantime, you can try to cool down the Facebook chats by delaying your responses to his messages and not contributing much to the conversation.

I guess, that you should do whatever you would do if you wanted to cool the relationship with any other social friend. I don't think you need to worry about burning bridges. It sounds like he thinks very highly of you and if he's any kind of decent human being, he will give you a recommendation based on your professional skills, and not whether you are Facebook friends. If you want to patch things up but stay professional, write a good recommendation for him on LinkedIn (once he is not your boss).

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Many successful people have had mentors or senior people help them and look out for them, beyond the scope of simple employment. If it seems appropriate or plausible, acknowledge that and thank him. If that was his intent, great! If not, he now knows that is your expectation and he can go from there. This establishes the boundaries in a very positive way.

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