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Social Media: The Unavoidable Intersection of Your Business & Personal Life

Mar 13th 2009
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By Michelle Golden For those among you who have managed thus far to maintain good, solid compartmentalization between your business and your personal lives, I offer a hearty “Congratulations!”

Seriously. Not an easy thing to do these days. In fact, for some of us, we couldn’t cleanly sort the people in our lives into the two buckets of "business" and "friends" if our lives depended on it.

But this “blur” of personal and professional isn’t really a new thing, at all, is it?

For years, we've become friends with clients and friends become clients. Co-workers become like family. Sometimes they literally become family. It's not uncommon that lawyers/doctors wed other lawyers/doctors, etc. (With the hours some people put in, where the heck else would they meet anyone?? )

But now it’s in your face and soon to be, if not yet, in your employment policies: dealing with social media applications and the work day.

Collecting all your contacts in one place is complicated, too. There is the clear challenge of deciding how much of your personal side to bear to whom.

You might whip out your kid’s pictures to show a colleague at a conference, but do you really want them seeing photos of you in your swimsuit chasing your kid (not pretty is my point)?

For those who want to dip their toe in the pool of the life/work blend (or who are already waist deep) and wishing for a way to be more selective about who sees what, you will probably appreciate this excellent “how to” on Facebook privacy through using “groups” for sorting your friends and business contacts. Read 10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know.

I’ll briefly touch on policies, too. Frankly, as much as companies have tried over the last decade to stifle employee access of third party email sites, interactive websites, etc, it’s simply impossible to restrict the entire internet. Why bother to lock out hotmail/yahoo when people have email and text on their smart phones??

That era is over.

And it’s dumb to block most websites, too. Disallowing Linked In, Facebook, Blogs and Twitter (yes, some firms lock down all of those) is cutting off your firm’s nose to spite its face. These are valuable marketing tools for those who wish to use them that way.

But more discouragingly for the leery employer, if you ban them, smart people who like a challenge (there tend to be quite a few of those in the professional knowledge firm arena) will spend their time finding a way to circumvent the ban.

C’mon, you were remember the thrill of stretching or breaking a rule just to see if you could pull it off!

So, don’t spend a lot of energy worrying about who is using what forum and instead, if issues arise at the individual level with regard to performance, then address problems one-on-one with that individual. Worry about people not getting their work done is the real issue behind the bans, anyway, right?

Today's reality is that there is little choice now but to trust the way people spend their “time” is appropriate, overall, and simply hold people accountable for the end result: either they are cutting the mustard with performance, or they aren’t.

Good luck and happy entry to this new era of life/work management.

*Hat tip to the incomparable Debra Helwig (excellent new blog: Service Minded) for pointing me to the the Facebook Privacy article and its 239 useful comments