HR Management & Compliance

You’re the Expert: What should we do about our supervisors’ and managers’ casual use of e-mail?

We’re concerned about our supervisors’ and managers’ casual use of e-mail. They are saying things about employees that might come back to haunt us. When we talk to them, they say it all gets erased after a month anyway. What should we do?

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Here’s what you had to say:


  • The basic rule to teach about e-mail: E-mail never dies. This must be drilled into all your supervisors and managers. So many still think that by deleting their e-mail it’s gone, but it’s not. First of all, with forensic data recovery techniques, it’s probably still recoverable from their computer; second, the recipient still has a copy; and finally, it’s probably permanently available from various levels of corporate backup procedures. — F.D.
  • Here’s the most effective training tool we’ve found: Ask your managers and supervisors when they write e-mail to think, “Would I like to see my e-mail words in five-inch-high type on a foamboard in front of a jury?” — A.P.
  • We tell our people to run every e-mail by this test: Would you like to defend this e-mail on “60 Minutes?” — W.F.
  • We list e-mails that have caused problems in court:
    • E-mails that describe the plaintiff in discriminatory terms
    • E-mails that convey an attitude that the disciplinary process was not taken seriously (“this guy’s a whack job”)
    • E-mails that imply that the termination was predetermined
    • E-mails that give the impression that the reasons for a termination were created after the fact
    • E-mail that has been selectively retained
  • Talking about e-mails in the context of court appearances has a strong effect on our managers.
    — M.C.

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