HR Management & Compliance

What Should We Do About Informal Business Emails?


Our employees are too informal in their work emails to clients, vendors, etc. They are saying things they shouldn’t—such as speaking negatively about company policies—and their tone is too informal for outside business contacts. What can we do?

 

In every issue, we take one reader’s question and ask our other readers to weigh in. Here’s what you had to say about a recent question:

  • We cover this issue in our communications training, which includes email and Internet use. We discuss email etiquette and emphasize these points:
  1. Email never goes away and is never erased. Many employees still think that if they hit delete after sending a message, an email is gone—but it’s not. The email has been sent to the intended recipient and may have been forwarded to another person, so there are at least one or two copies out there already. And then there are the various email recordkeeping systems, backup programs, etc. You can never be sure that an email is actually expunged and erased.
  2. Email is discoverable. It will be available to employees who sue the company.
  3. Our outside email should project a businesslike image.  We warn employees about being too casual in content (saying things, such as discriminatory comments, that could come back to haunt us in court) and too laid-back in style (for example, How R U?). We emphasize that all business email, which represents the company, should be treated as formal correspondence, with proper grammar, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. — S.B.
  • We preach the “WSJ” principle—would you be comfortable with the message appearing on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?—and the “juryperson’s principle”—would you be comfortable having this email in six-inch letters on a poster in front of a jury? —T.K.
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