I learned through my friend in the IT department at my company that my boss could have been reading all of my emails over the past six months. I have been carelessly sending personal emails throughout the day to my friends booking dates, sharing personal relationship matters and other confidential information.
I had no idea that my company could read my emails! Apparently, my IT friend said that they can on company time and on computers that belong to the company. What should I do to rectify this embarrassing event?
Signed: Embarrassing Emails (EE)
Too many employees believe that emails are private at work. They are NOT. It is not a casual communication device and sometimes, these emails can even ruin your career and job.
Cynthia Shapiro (in her book Corporate Confidential) presents some tips for employees who are casual about their emails during work time.
Emails are not private or secure. Assume that all your emails are being read. I had an employer who was an HR director who mistakenly replied to “all” with a confidential email about a policy change in the organization that would cause lay-offs. It got into the wrong hands. The HR staff was fired.
Emails are forever. They can be shared, forwarded, posted and printed for all to see. You may think it is deleted, but it remains on the server. Emails can be intercepted. You can be sure that if the CEO views a negative email from you about the company, chances are you will be out the door, as soon as there is an opportunity.
Beware of the send button. Accidents happen. You can email a message to the wrong person. For example, a complaint about your boss that was meant for your co-worker but your boss got the email instead because they both have the same name. It’s too late to hit the “recall button”! Again, your career could be damaged from this situation.
Email distorts intention. Shapiro warns that email is a highly flawed communication tool, one of the worst ever for the workplace. People use it inappropriately, sometimes hoping to avoid confrontation. It lacks any tone, inflection and body language and it can be completely misunderstood and misinterpreted by the reader, which can result in conflict; an innocent email can come across as an angry email. This tool should be used at your discretion. Sometimes, it is better to have a face-to-face conversation rather than emailing each other.
Treat emails with respect. Make sure you use it professionally. Write it as if you are writing a formal document or a company memo. Write it carefully and make sure your message reads as intended. In essence, an email is a professional, formal paperless memo.
Say nothing negative. Never complain or write anything that you really think. It is for conveying information only; not addressing issues or problems. It’s safer to treat email as a public voice, where you say only positive or benign things about the company. Write emails assuming that they will be read by everybody.
Do not send it if you have to be overly careful. You never know where it could go or who will see it. Remember, an email is never private and it leaves a paper trail. Again, if you have something sensitive to share, do it in person.
If you receive a negative email then delete it immediately and reply to the person who sent it, requesting that he or she never send you anything like that again. If the email is being watched, those viewing it will assume that you are involved and in agreement with the sender. This could jeopardize your job. Always respond with a stern reply. Do not let it go.
Remember, emails can be harmful. Writer, beware.