It may be a taboo topic in some respects, but I still believe lines of professionalism are alive and well. Becoming harder to see and more blurry, perhaps, but still there. There are just some things you do and do not do in your professional world.
Social media, for example. I do not ‘friend’ clients on Facebook; I also do not automatically add everyone in my new office on the first day. I am hesitant to connect with clients and co-workers on LinkedIn. If I do, it is after a significant period of time of being acquainted. Why? The professional boundary. The foundation of our relationship is professional, not personal. I want to keep it that way.
Don’t get me wrong – I come to know my clients and co-workers very personally. We talk, we share – it’s great. But there are still lines that shouldn’t be crossed. As an HR professional, I am privy to a lot of confidential information. I am also privy to the hear-say, the assumptions, the stories, the gossip – knowing that, do I want to know even more about the personal lives of those I work with every day? I think not; I know enough.
The biggest problem with social media is that it creates a false sense of intimacy. ‘Friends’ are not necessarily ‘friends.’ People are portrayed as closer than they truly are, and everyone is shown in their best light. How many of your Facebook friends have a tendency to share too much? Mine do and that’s just my immediate family, friends from high school and college, and parents of my kids’ friends. I have no interest in adding the drama of my clients and co-workers too.
Using the goods and services of a client or co-worker also comes with its challenges. What if you take your dry cleaning to a client company or agree to have a co-worker take your sister’s wedding photos – and things go horribly wrong? How do you bounce back from that? Just say no.
There are a lot of other areas of professionalism that have evolved in recent years – dress codes, language (swearing), alcohol in the office. For the most part, the changes have been good and are appropriate to reflect new societal norms. But there are still lines. I wish more people would observe them.