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Sharing with co-workers on Facebook or other social networks can have other benefits. A Fort Lauderdale, Fla., law office manager who is single found that by sharing pictures online of herself with her elderly mother, her co-workers learned she had family responsibilities, too. “They had no idea how much I was balancing,” said the manager, who asked not to be named. “When they see you as a whole person, they can give you more emotional support.”

Creating ties on social media platforms can also bridge generational gaps. At a time when 2 out of 5 people work with colleagues spanning all four generations, social networks offer a way to break down barriers and make others seem more approachable.

Greenway at Lee Hecht Harrison says that when he was assigned to mentor a younger manager, he went right to Facebook and learned he was a drummer in a band. “It opened the door for good conversation, and I was able to develop a relationship on a different, more personal level.”

Of course, letting co-workers into your personal life carries risk. Some of us don’t consciously think about who will be reading every single status update. A simple post like “I hate Mondays” or any comment that implies you don’t really like your job or boss can hurt you at work.

Or let’s say a team project is due and a co-worker notices your stream of updates from games like “Candy Crush.” Now your work ethic is in question. Even a political comment or religious reference on social media could create friction with an office friend who disagrees with your viewpoint, said David Maxfield, vice president of research at VitalSmarts, a training solutions firm.

And, then there’s the potential to make a co-worker feel excluded. After posting his lunch photo, Goldberg returned to his office to find another office buddy angry because he wasn’t included. “Sometime you’re going to leave someone out. With social media, people are going to be more aware of it,” Goldberg said.

For oversharers, self-policing is essential, experts say. Exposing drama in your personal lives on social media sites could affect how colleagues treat you at work. (One woman I know shared details of a bad breakup, and was mortified when her boss brought it up with her.)

Another warning from experts: Don’t let social media platforms become your default forums for high-stakes conversations or disagreements with colleagues. “It takes lots of conversations to build a relationship, but only one on social media to destroy it,” Maxfield said.

Each social network has its own way of allowing you to edit content and customize who gets to see it. Experts suggest you set your privacy settings, review them regularly and be smart about what you post.

As the traditional ideas of work/life separation evolve, the way co-workers connect online will, too. Said Maxfield: “On the whole, it’s overwhelmingly positive.”

Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life.

©2014 The Miami Herald
Distributed by MCT Information Services

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