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!