In a sign of our changing times, a forthcoming white paper out of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton school bears the title, “OMG My Boss Just Friended Me.”
The study will add to the small but growing body of academic research into how online relationships between colleagues inform, and are informed by, face-to-face interactions at the office.
Eager to hear the results before they are officially published, I asked professor Nancy Rothbard, who worked on the study with researchers Justin Berg and Ariane Ollier-Malaterre, the obvious question: So? Should you and your boss be friends on Facebook?
The answer, of course, is not simple. Among the team’s findings was that people weren’t just uncomfortable getting friend requests from their bosses; even requests from their subordinates felt awkward. “It was just the asymmetry of hierarchy that made people uncomfortable,” Rothbard said.
When it was the bosses who reached out on Facebook, participants in the study appeared to equate them with their parents. They had the same dilemma over whether to add them as ‘friends’ or not. And they used the same logic to arrive at their ultimate decision.