Friday, December 11, 2009

Is it wrong to "friend" subordinates or clients? Florida ethics ruling on judges and trial lawyers raises questions for the workplace in general

An article in the Friday New York Times today Dec. 11, p A18, by John Schwartz, “For Judges on Facebook, Friendship has some limits,” (link) reports that Flordia’s Judicial Ethics Committee has ruled judges may no longer be “social networking site friends” of lawyers who will appear before them, because it creates the appearance of conflict of interest.

Can a similar rule be expected between managers and subordinates in the workplace in general?

An article by Jim Giuliano in HR Morrning (Oct. 30, 2009) seems to think so. The link is here. Legal problems (or hostile workplace issues) could result if the boss takes performance-related action against the associate and there is controversial material on either party’s social networking pages or other findable online content.

It’s murkier in cases of informal team leadership or “matrix management” (even “involuntary management” over an existing relationship) or “managing” contractors, as I’ve pointed out before. Should contractors “friend” members of a client company that they work with? I wonder what the policies are on this out there?

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