My former colleague recently moved to the other end of the world. It was the best day of my working life.
Until then, this senior associate had displayed the malicious, manipulating and backstabbing behavior you would expect from two women sharing an office. Worse, my colleague was the reason for my entry into the firm, and turned into Barristerzilla from day one. Having landed her pension fund in the form of a nearly-retired partner twice her age, she limited her professional activities to planning her wedding and getting the paperwork ready for their exodus to pension island. In order to justify her continued inclusion on the payroll, she resolved to copying my work and bad mouthing me in front of the partner heading our team. Her pending emigration was, in fact, the light at the end of the tunnel which dragged me through those horrible first six months.
After Barristerzilla left, the working relationship between the partner and I improved rapidly. It seemed liked my days as suppressed trainee were over.
Until the day I received a friend request on Facebook.
The mere image of her profile picture brought about feelings of resentment and fear. What was I to do? Accepting her request would enable Barristerzilla to review details of my personal life, information which could be used against me. On the other hand, declining could trigger retribution.
Whereas our Facebook accounts are generally safe from parental supervision (Babyboomers usually do not engage in any virtual networking), office mates and the like have to be excluded from our social network by choice.
To what extent is it required to get up close and personal with your office peers online? It is not like your colleagues expect you to spill your guts about the weekend in the office on Monday. Moreover, in real life there is a wide range of socially accepted subtleties available to avoid mixing business and pleasure. For example, repeated invitations for after works drinks can be declined politely with a smile and wave.
But Facebook is without mercy. It’s either in or out. Declining a friend request is like an unreturned phone call. It will be noticed. And once that person is in, there is no way out but un-friending them. Now there is a statement.
How to virtually escape your office friend (or foe) remains the question. Declining is the safest way out. If that’s not considered optional for reasons of professional interdependencies, there’s always the option of accepting and vigorously amending your privacy settings. As the CEO of Facebook recently advised, “I encourage you to (...) consider who you’re sharing with online.”Luckily, there is always an ultimum remedium: commit virtual suicide. Less hazardous than in real life, and you can always start all over again.
Goodbye. Farewell. See you on Facebook : )