Yes, some overzealous HR pros in large companies paw through whatever material is made public by the social networking in pursuit of dirt, but that's just "fact-finding" and gossip-mongering. No, I am talking about a genuine human interest.
In most cases there is none. Watching all sorts of bosses interact with their employees I frequently wonder whether it registers in their heads that they deal with real people. I think they subconsciously block this tiny detail out, so that they wouldn't feel guilty for being assholes. So, how can you expect them to notice anything about your personality, if they see you as a cardboard cutout? They are blind even to the most obvious manifestations of your existence outside of the workplace.
You may belong to a weekend fight club and come to work every Monday with poorly covered bruises; or aspire to be the greatest drummer of all times and constantly bang your fingers on hard surfaces to some beats in your head; or know everything there is to know about existentialism and talk about it at length during office parties - none of it will be noticed: they see and hear it, but their minds reject it. For them, you are still just Steve from Logistics, or Mike from Customer Service, or that girl from Accounting.
Do I know for a fact that this sort of myopia exists? Yes, I do. My position as a financial executive and/or consultant allows me to observe various bosses in close proximity. Over the years, I've collected a huge body of evidence to support my statements here. But I can also vouch for their validity based on the incidents that involved me personally. I'm not going to dwell here on the fact that none of my employers ever learned anything of my true motivations, ethical standards, or even why I work so hard and care so much. Instead, let me share with you an instance of an inexplicable blindness.
I don't ever shove CFO Techniques into people's faces. Being a book's author barely has any impact on consulting deals and it definitely has nothing to do with my CFO job. But people do find out on their own: they connect with me on LinkedIn and see it on my profile, or they Google me, or whatever. Normal people, not bosses. A company's owner writes an email to one of his strategic financial partners with a copy to me: "Let me introduce our CFO M.G. From now on, she is taking over all our M&A negotiations." Apparently the fact that the three of us were at the same table during a corporate function has slipped his remembrance. As per usual, I simply ignore it. The external party doesn't: "Not only that I've met Marina already, but I also keep her book on my desk." The boss replies, "Oh yeah, I forgot, I introduced you, guys." You may think that he deliberately ignored the part about the book, but I swear, he is not that devious - he simply blocked it out, didn't see it at all.
And that's absolutely Ok. Attentiveness is not a prerequisite to being a business leader and a jobs creator. I'll take brilliance and perpetual drive to succeed over tact and personal involvement any day. And I have to be honest - I'm not quite sure if I personally would've been as aware of people around me and familiar with some aspects of their lives if I weren't such an avid, life-long student of behavioral science. At the end of the day, one can say that my interest is self-serving.
Of course, sometimes it hurts just a bit that the people, for whom you work so hard, don't even care to learn who you are, but in the grander scheme of things we should not care - as I always say, every job is just another line on your resume. Moreover, we should be grateful - we don't really want these people to know too much about us or our vulnerabilities.
That said, however, it is still pretty surprising when bosses are confused about most basic, most superficial facts about employees who worked for them for years. Sometimes it brings about ludicrous, almost sketch-like dialogues.
A tragedy struck one of my subordinates: her Mom, only 55 years old, died unexpectedly of a heart attack. The girl has been with the company longer than me; she was originally hired by the CEO at the time when there were no other executive managers in the company at all - just owners and staffers. The CEO shuffles into my office to reflect on the unfairness of life.
She said, "You know, it's so cruel: Shen's parents were the first-generation immigrants - worked so hard to provide for the children! And now, the kids are all grown up, married, educated - it was a time for her Mom to finally enjoy her life, and then this happened. Just terrible!"
I listened to all that and agreed, "Yes, it's totally fucked up. With respect to her Mom, it was Shen who was the first-generation immigrant. Her parents got divorced when she was a little girl. Shen came here 13 years ago with her farther and she didn't see her Mom for 8 years. They missed each other terribly. The girl was able to bring the mother here only after she herself came of age and became a US citizen. They were together for only 5 years. The Mom still worked 7 days a week to support herself, and now she is gone."
And here you have it, ladies and gentlemen: a boss's "reality" vs. truth.