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Can coworkers be Facebook friends?

Facebook is personal. Work is professional. Different worlds, right?

Well, probably not as far as your young employees are concerned. According to a new survey of Facebook data by Millennial Branding, a "personal branding" advertising agency, young people keep Facebook only nominally personal. While 80 percent of those aged 18-29 list a school affiliation, only 36 percent list an employer affiliation.

The catch? Young people have "friended" an average of 16 colleagues each, according to the study, which was released Monday.

This means that even if they don't officially associate their Facebook persona with work, Gen Y's personal and work lives are blended, all the same.

In theory, this could be problematic. Post a photo from a Saturday night party and it's like posting it on the company bulletin board.

But in the grand scheme of things, your young employees' tendency to friend their colleagues on Facebook is part of a broader shift in the way we live. As people move between employers frequently (and Gen Y are job hoppers, spending just over two years at their first jobs, according to Millennial Branding), their loyalties are not to institutions, but to people. You and your colleague may work together now, but sooner or later, both of you will likely jump ship. One of you may later recruit the other at a different organization, use the other as a vendor, use each other as sources of information about different companies, possibly become business partners, or friendly competitors.

However the professional relationship unfolds, though, you can always be "friends." Work and life are a mishmash now, and Gen Y's Facebook friends reflect that.

How many of your colleagues are your Facebook friends?

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