Friending your boss on Facebook can be a risky move. Let’s face it: We all have a skeleton or two in our virtual closet, and you’re basically giving your manager a front-row seat. But studies show that adding your boss to your friends list can actually work in your favor—if you do it the right way, of course.
One-third of workers who are connected with their supervisor on Facebook say the online relationship enables them to perform more effectively on the job, according to a study by marketing firm Russell Herder. "There are benefits to connecting with your boss on Facebook, but you need to be hyperaware of how you’re managing your online relationship," says Wharton School professor Nancy Rothbard, who studies the effects of social media in the workplace.
With the right approach, becoming Facebook friends with your boss—and effectively leveraging the connection—can help you build rapport, improve your offline communication, and distinguish you from your peers, says Rothbard.
Take these steps to tactfully friend your manager on Facebook, and then reap the benefits.
Your boss may or may not be willing to connect on Facebook. "It’s a very personal decision," says Stamford, Connecticut, job coach Donna Sweidan. Unless your manager sends you the friend request, you need to determine how being the initiator would be perceived. Company culture plays a role; startups, for example, tend to be more social media-oriented, says Marie McIntyre, author of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics. And if your manager is already Facebook friends with your peers, it’s probably okay to connect.
Also, check with human resources to make sure the company doesn’t have a policy prohibiting managers from being Facebook friends with their subordinates.
Before giving your boss access to view your Facebook page, scrub any incriminating photos by removing or detagging anything questionable, advises Sweidan. Use your discretion. "A photo of you drinking a glass of wine at dinner isn’t indicative of you being irresponsible, but a picture of you taking multiple shots at the bar doesn’t put you in the best light," Sweidan says.
In addition, adjust your privacy settings so that you need to approve what photos and statuses friends tag you in before they can appear on your timeline, recommends Rochester career coach Hannah Morgan, coauthor of Social Networking for Business Success: Turn Your Ideas into Income.
To shape your manager’s online perception of you, post things that highlight your interests outside of work. "Facebook is a social website, so use it to show your personality," says Salt Lake City-based career coach Jennifer Anderson. If you volunteer at the local soup kitchen, for example, share photos to show that you’re actively engaged in the community.
Ideally, you can spotlight hobbies that you share with your boss. Of course, be mindful that your boss may not share your political views (read: refrain from knocking Donald Trump’s hairstyle).
It’s not enough to simply be Facebook friends with your boss—you need to interact with the person to take advantage of the connection. How you engage should mirror your offline relationship, says Rothbard. "If you’ve chatted in person with your boss about their kids and then they post their holiday family photo, ‘liking’ or commenting on it can build rapport," she says.
You can also use your boss’s posts as talking points for face-to-face conversations. For example: "How was your weekend? I saw you celebrated your daughter’s birthday." But do this in moderation, cautions Morgan. "You don’t want your boss to think that you’re stalking or brown-nosing them."
This article originally appeared on Monster and is reprinted with permission.