You have one new friend request: Survey answers reveal workers’ dilemma and bosses’ motivation.

There was a time when Facebook was limited to just university students, so the only people likely to add you were fellow students, many of whom you may have actually met in real life. Then in 2006 the floodgates opened and everyone and their mother could create an account and join up. Friend requests from relatives started to pour in, to the embarrassment of many. But, if there’s one kind of person on social media whose friends requests are dreaded even more than parents’, or possibly the doctor’s, it’s the boss.

All Connect, Ltd., a company which specialises in communications infrastructure, recently published the results of a questionnaire looking into how Japanese workers felt about getting a friend request on social media sites from their superiors, and whether they accepted or refused the request. As well as asking 100 male and 100 female workers in their twenties, they also surveyed 100 male and 100 female bosses in their thirties or forties as to why they had tried to make contact with their younger subordinates outside of the work environment. As if they don’t spend enough time with them during the week!

Q1. When you received a friend request from your boss, how did you feel? Multiple answers allowed.

For both male and female workers, their bosses’ online advances were largely unwelcome, with only a small number of either being pleased at the attention. Female workers were more likely to be worried or stressed out, not knowing how to respond, while men were more likely to react angrily at the invasion into their private lives.

Of those male and female respondents who had their online friendship requested (48 of the men, compared to a full 63 of the women), how many responded positively and how many had the gall to say “thanks, but no thanks”?

Q2. When you received a friend request from your boss, what did you do? Multiple answers allowed.

Most workers eventually accepted their bosses’ requests but while almost a quarter of responses suggested that the workers were happy to accept their employers’ offers of friendship, the biggest group were those who begrudgingly gave in and accepted. A fair few went for the head-in-the-sand approach and ignored it, but only a small number were brave enough to outright refuse.

While the results of the questions posited to workers are as you might expect, the bosses’ reasons for sending friend requests in the first place are probably more interesting. Of the 200 bosses surveyed (100 men and 100 women in their thirties or forties), only 39 of the men and 28 of the women had ever sent a friend request to their junior staff.

Q1. What was your reasoning behind sending a friend request? Multiple answers allowed.

The answers given, were (taking into account multiple answers):

“I wanted to improve our working relationship.” (Male bosses: 43.6%; female bosses 32.1%)
“I wanted to find common interests or conversation points” (M: 25.6%; F: 42.9%)
“I wanted them to see me as a friend rather than as a boss.” (M: 35.9%; F: 25%)
“I wanted to spy on their private lives.” (M: 15.4%; F: 21.4%)
“I wanted to check they weren’t bad-mouthing the company or doing something to disgrace it.” (M: 20.5%; F: 14.3%)
“I wanted to see what sort of person they were outside of work.” (M: 15.4%; F: 17.9%)
“I just wanted to increase the number of my online friends”. (M: 20.5%; F: 10.7%)
“I was romantically interested in them.” (M: 17.9%; F: 7.1%)
“Other reasons” (M: 5.1%; F: 0%)

So, if these answers are to be believed, only a minority of requests were connected to work, while far more were seemingly about spying on their lower downs. While almost a fifth of male bosses admitted to harbouring a romantic interest in their juniors, this was only a motivating factor for fewer than one in ten female bosses.

The survey didn’t ask the same bosses whether they themselves had been the recipients of friend requests from potentially brown-nosing or loved-up subordinates, or how they reacted, so perhaps that’s another survey, and another Ig Nobel Prize candidate, for another day. Have you ever been so lucky as to be befriended by your employer, and how did you respond? Probably in most cases, you’ll just have to suck it up, and accept; it’s just one more of Japan’s shikata ga nai moments.

Top image: Gahag
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