As more corporate types join social networking sites like Facebook, some employees find themselves experiencing the same kind of discomfiture that 12-year-olds do when they see their parents on skateboards or listening to 50 Cent.
A 24-year-old interviewed by the Wall Street Journal who agreed to join his boss' "buddy list" (because he didn't know how to politely turn him down) got the impression the boss was trying to send a message about how cool he was with photos of himself downing two drinks at once and flashing hand gestures better left to hip-hoppers. "I hurt for him," he says.
The 24-year-old also felt compelled to remove photos of himself that didn't mesh with his corporate image.
OK, we understand the impulse for people to post photos of themselves doing stuff they'd never do in the office -- and taking the chance that coworkers could stumble across them is sometimes part of the thrill. But to invite casual workmates to see them?
Sure, unwelcome intimacies can be just as easily revealed over an open bar at the company Christmas party, but reveals on Facebook seem far worse because of their non-incidental and more lasting nature.
Like e-mail and instant messaging before them, it'll take some time for folks to adopt the right "voice" -- but just as with those channels, many of the same professional etiquette guidelines should apply.
And if use of social networks in a professional capacity becomes common enough, companies may have to trot out some formal policies -- just as IBM did recently for employees participating in Second Life and other virtual communities.