One stupid email can get you fired. Take the case of a lawyer working for the Small Business Administration, who got the boot when his company found out that he had sent and received over a hundred e-mails that clearly showed his support of the Green Party. (Moral of the story: if you’re going to do something subversive, do it on your own PC.) Then, one intern sent extremely confidential IT diagrams to her personal Gmail so she could include them in her portfolio. Unfortunately, all that data—I.P. addresses, applications, and servers—are stored in Google. (No, we are not making these up, these are actual anecdotes in Top 10 email faux pas.)
Save your job, protect company info, and avoid an industrial espionage lawsuit with these simple office email etiquette.
1. Use office email for office correspondence only.
Company e-mail remains official. Make sure your office e-mail is used only for official purposes. If you want to e-mail buddies or join a non-work-related e-mail groups, that’s what your Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail are for. (Besides, this works to your benefit too: it reduces the amount of mail you have to read in the office, and saves you precious minutes of wading through your inbox for your boss’ memo.)
2. Office email is company property.
Office e-mails and their contents are regarded as company property, so the IT administrator (and your boss) can open them at any time. Forget ‘privacy’ issues because you’re not supposed to be doing anything personal in office e-mail anyway. You know what that means: don’t send anything incriminating, like job applications or rants about your client.
3. Company bandwidth is company property.
Again, if you want to stock up on your latest movie trailer, screenshot, or favorite actor’s 8 x 10, download the material at home. Do this in the office and risk having it deleted at a moment’s notice. All these accumulated downloading by staffers slows down bandwidth time and consumes digital space that could have been used for important files and presentations.
4. Big Brother is Watching.
Your IT team can track the websites you go to. That includes porn sites, dating sites, or job search engines. Wouldn’t want that showing up on your performance evaluation, do you?
5. Think before you forward.
Those hundreds of spam that now clog up your inbox are the karmic aftermath of the unwanted attachments that you send out. Break the curse and vow never to send a spam that may or may not carry a virus for the rest of your online life.
6. Stop being cute.
Don’t send out unsolicited e-mail, not even jokes, cute cards, and photographs. It’s more polite to send a short e-mail first asking if he or she would be interested in such material. Besides, sending out powerpoint presentations with Chicken Soup for the Soul quotes and pretty sunsets doesn’t exactly make you look professional—it’s the digital equivalent of handing out flowers to everyone you meet.
7. Protect your e-mail list.
Ever gotten an e-mail from someone you don’t know but who happened to be a friend of a friend? Chances are this stranger picked up your e-mail from a list of addresses posted in an e-mail that your mutual friend had sent to him. Imagine there were 20 names in that ‘To:’ header. Abby sends spam mail to Cynthia at the bottom of the list. Cynthia sends same mail to another 20 in her address book, without erasing the previous names. Now the 20th person in that address book can see the e-mail addresses of the 20 first—and if he wants to do so, can pop them a note. And if that’s bad enough in personal correspondence, think of the consequences when the addresses are those of your clients from your company’s list—imagine the breach in security!
The best thing to do: use the BCC or blind cc button.