The Seven Deadly Sins of Workplace Email

Each scenario addresses some of the following issues.

  1. Thinking "Delete" Deletes
    • Don't assume hitting "delete" erases an email trail!
    • Deleted emails can often easily be recovered.
    • Most businesses routinely keep back-up copies of their computer systems for months or even years.
    • Even if you press delete, you have no control over the sender's copy or others you may have sent the communication to.
  2. Personal Communications
    • Beware of improperly using your employer's email for personal communications.
    • If you wouldn't want the contents of your email printed or sent out on your organization's letterhead, don't send it on your organization's email.
    • Be especially wary of using work email for improper purposes such as betting pools, chain letters or pornographic materials.
  3. Front Page Email
    • Write an email as if you expect to see it on the front page of the newspaper.
    • Even when writing for legitimate business purposes, there are many ways email could become public knowledge. Think twice before you send.
  4. Writing Casually, Not Literally
    • Write emails as if your readers will take their content literally-and as if the whole organization will see it.
    • Email does not convey tone of voice. Don't exaggerate, joke, lose your temper, give guarantees, debate, spread rumors, etc.
  5. Copyright Confusion
    • Copyright laws can apply to materials in emails.
    • If you forward a published item that is saved electronically you could be breaking the law.
  6. Misaddressing
    • Double check your addresses-make sure your emails go to the parties you want and only the parties you want.
    • Be particularly aware of Reply To, CC and BCC.
  7. Corrective Action Failure
    • Don't ignore email that requires corrective action. Flags for action include receipt of misdirected confidential information and prohibited content.
    • Deleting a bad email is not the same as never having received it. Speak to a supervisor or other appropriate person, such as organization counsel.

These Seven Deadly Sins are discussed further in our Workplace E-mail training course, Think Before You Send: A Practical Guide to Email in the Workplace

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