Think before Sending (Email, that is)

Want help with your hiring? It's easy. Enter your information below, and we'll quickly reach out to discuss your hiring needs.

sending emailsEmails in the workplace are so commonplace that most people don’t consider the potential consequences of using the modern tool in the wrong way. Using work email for private purposes can prove disastrous if used irresponsibly or carelessly and can reflect poorly on your work ethic and personal reputation. Before sending another personal email from work, it’s important to consider several cautionary statements about the potential perils of email indiscretion.

  • No matter where you work, private or public sector, for profit or non profit, anything you say in an email sent from your work account can be used as evidence against you in court. In fact, the ePolicy Institute in Ohio reports that 14 percent of emails sent from a workplace have been subpoenaed during lawsuits.
  • Most employers grant employees no expectation of privacy of any correspondence sent using corporate resources. Email you send is not confidential. Not only can your email be legally inspected any time, but emails you send to co-workers may be forwarded to others and spread throughout your workplace in a matter of minutes.
  • While workplace romances may be tolerated under a “don’t ask don’t tell” philosophy, using your work email to exchange love letters or explicit content can potentially cost you your job and, in the case of an illicit affair, your family.
  • Another huge email no-no is for the use of criticizing or bashing co-workers, or for harassment purposes. Almost one in seven U.S. businesses have suffered through lawsuits initiated by employee emails interpreted as harassing and discriminating resulting in a hostile workplace.
  • An easy way to introduce viruses and other harmful programs into your employer’s network is to open chain letters and other hoaxes. Coming across a suspicious email from an unknown sender should result in an immediate deletion. Hackers and other techno-ne’er do wells frequently target employees as weak points into a company’s systems.
  • A common mistake, often leading to serious regret, is the use of the “reply all” feature instead of the simple “reply” option. This is another danger inherent in sharing unflattering gossip and opinions over email; you may unintentionally send your thoughts to the very person or persons you of which you speak.
  • You may also infringe upon the privacy of your buddy list contacts by including bulk lists of email addresses in the “to” section. And using BCC for the sake of anonymity may also backfire, since when an email recipient uses “reply all” any addresses within the BC field are transferred into the “to” field and become visible to whomever receive the new email.
  • About a quarter of U.S. businesses report to having fired employees for workplace email abuse. As with public laws, ignorance of corporate email policy does not make violators of the policy immune to punishment. Know your company’s email policy before sending anything over its network and at accordingly. Appropriate email usage can help avoid serious consequences from activities which may initially seem innocuous.

Read more in Business Communication

Joshua Bjerke, from Savannah, Georgia, focuses on articles involving the labor force, economy, and HR topics including new technology and workplace news. Joshua has a B.A. in Political Science with a Minor in International Studies and is currently pursuing his M.A. in International Security.