There is a quote from Martin Lomasney, a Boston politician from early 1900’s who said, “Never write if you can speak; never speak if you can nod; never nod if you can wink”. This was updated in the early 2000s by Eliot Spitzer, former NY state attorney general, who added “and never put it in an email”. There is a long list of companies and individuals who have been implicated of wrong doings because of their emails (and that list includes Spitzer, who apparently did not heed his own advice).
When using company email it is important to remember that all emails are subject to legal discovery in the event of a lawsuit. All emails sent from a work address are considered the property of the company, so nothing can be considered personal or confidential. And email, like most things on the internet, is never truly deleted.
So what are some things that should never be emailed?
Confidential Information: Perhaps an employee hasn’t been performing as they should or shirking their duties and you complain to a colleague about in an email. If that employee decides to sue the company for a hostile work environment or discrimination, those emails are subject to discovery. You also shouldn’t be sharing confidential or proprietary information regarding the company whether that be via email or verbally. But keep in mind that company emails can be searched at any time by management (or a governing body) and you are risking your own job by sharing information that you shouldn’t be.
Between You and Me: If you feel the need to use the words “just between us” or “delete this after reading” it’s not something you should be emailing. Jokes, complaints, criticisms, and threats (even if they are in jest) are just a few examples of what not to put in your emails. If you wouldn’t be comfortable reading the email in front of the whole office, clients, or customers, don’t click send.
Gossip: Any talk or rumors about other employees that has to do with their personal lives or other sensitive matters can be considered gossip. It can be very tempting to send off a quick email to a friendly co-worker about the annoying habits of your cubicle mate or someone on your team. If it’s not constructive or business related, don’t send it out in an email.
These are just three examples, but for a more comprehensive overview, please contact us at De Novo HRC.
It is hard to remember a time before email. It seems like we just couldn’t conduct business as quickly and efficiently without it. And while the use of email is a great tool for collaboration and getting information out to many people quickly, there are times when face to face communication is better. Knowing what is appropriate to say, how to say it, and what method to use is an important skill to master in this digital age.