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The Digital Diss: When Co-workers Suddenly Unfriend You

You've just been fired. As you're still reeling from the news, another big surprise awaits you online: Being "unfollowed" on Twitter and "unfriended" on Facebook by all of your former co-workers. Status: It's complicated.

One by one, and seemingly all too quickly, the "teammates" who once had your back are turning their virtual backs on you. When you think about it, being unfriended, unfollowed and disconnected by co-workers is becoming the 21st Century equivalent of turning in one's I.D. badge. It's over, buddy. It's been nice knowing you, goodbye and good luck. We now e-shun you.

It's getting hard to be an employee without an online presence too, since employers pretty much demand a social media footprint when hiring and encourage employees to use social media for astroturfing purposes. Managers are also hot to have co-workers "friend" each other for better teamwork and productivity. Awww, look at everyone co-existing so happily online together!

But what happens when things don't work out at work? Employers may require the newly-minted ex-employee to defriend/unlink/unfollow certain contacts, as well as their former co-workers. If the company is small and neophyte enough, then the boss might simply advise the employee's former co-workers to kindly hit "delete," since remaining "friends" with the ex-employee is no longer advisable for astroturfing, teamwork, productivity, and intellectual property purposes.

New research finds unfriending hurts, and unfriending co-workers ranks high on people's list of reasons for unfriending others. It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and on the Internet no one knows you're a dog. At the very least, you're still feeling dogged by your former co-workers' digital diss.

The media may not be writing much about the unfriending of former co-workers, but people are writing about their personal experiences online and they're totally miffed. Take this post entitled Former Co-Worker, Former Facebook Friend:

Why am I writing about this? I was talking with a co-worker (a Facebook friend) and she was telling me that our former co-worker is no longer her "friend" and asked me if she unfriended me. I had no clue as I never went on to that person's profile and never really noticed if they made a post on my newsfeed or not. So, I went to my Facebook and saw that I too was unfriended. LOL. I suppose former coworker, former "friend" huh? Guess this just means that I was one of those "friends" on Facebook, but not in real life.
Ah, yes. Real life. It's there waiting for you, offline. LOL. Hugs.

If you've been professionally unfriended and unfollowed in recent years, please take heart: It's not personal, it's business. As harsh as that sounds. You're not a Hester Prynne of the Internet walking around town with a scarlet "U" (for unfriend) on your shirt. These things happen for a variety of reasons, and it's how you choose to react to it that counts. Speaking of counting, you can put your time and energy to better use by making new "friends" and "followers." They're only one click away these days.

Instances of "professional unfriending" may only rise as a social media-savvy generation enters the workforce, and companies will be wise to revisit and re-calibrate their unfriending policies as necessary. Thank you for being a friend, it was fun while it lasted.

See my related post Are You Hiding A Few Co-workers On Facebook?

Update 2014: Research has finally discovered why our co-workers un-friend us! Yay!


  1. I started a new job and had to work with others on a team. My co-worker requested to be my friend on Facebook, and I accepted her request. Being new, there are things I am looking for my co-worker to do; such as training, and sharing knowledge, but when that wasn't happening, management got involved. Suddenly, I became un-friended on Facebook, and/or blocked by other members on my team. This really makes things awkward, because although they may not be my friend on FB, they are amongst each other. Now they reference at work, "Did you see that picture I sent to you on FB"? and what it does, it segregates me as being a part of the team, and makes me feel like if they don't want to be my friend, or are blocking me on FB, then they don't like me. If they don't like me, then how can I work and share with them? I am depressed, and currently no longer like my job, because I feel I am with people who don' like me :(

  2. I was unfriended recently by my former boss. He just resigned a month ago. Before resigning, he was my boss for a year. I checked if he unfriended my other coworkers who also worked under him and, it turned out that I was the only one he unfriended. They were even shocked because me and my boss were close, like we're almost friends. I got hurt that our "friendship" was a lie. That's one thing. What hurt even more is that he can't even see me as a professional contact, like I'm THAT much of a failure to him as his "apprentice". I don't spam on facebook. I don't post too much. That's why all I could conclude is that I did something wrong during the time we worked together. It makes me rethink my career to be honest. This was my boss for Christ's sake. For a year in my life, my career depended on him. I guess that was just for NOTHING?


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