Vincy Workplace
March 18, 2005
E-mail too hot to handle

The recent e-mail missteps of Harry Stonecipher, former CEO of Boeing, should cause all workers to re-evaluate their use of e-mail.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Stonecipher was involved in an extramarital affair with another Boeing executive, and the two passed personal messages via company e-mail. {{more}}The content of the e-mails and the relationship itself violated the code of ethics of the company and Stonecipher was forced out of his position.

E-mail has become so popular and available that many people forget that the e-mail at work must be used in a professional manner. E-mails are business documents; companies have the right to monitor and even retain e-mail records.

Employees’ e-mail and instant messaging content can come under company surveillance. E-mail is not private. E-mails can be intercepted, misdirected, copied or forwarded to anyone without the knowledge of the original sender.

It is every worker’s responsibility to know his company’s e-mail policy. Ask the human resources department about your company’s e-mail policy and follow it closely. If your company has no policy, still be cautious in your use of e-mail.

When using e-mail, write in a professional manner and edit your text. It should be appropriate for the recipient. If the document were to be made public, it should not be embarrassing to you or your company. Messages need to be precise and grammatically correct. Do not use facial symbols in business e-mail.

Limit use of e-mail for personal correspondence while at work. Using a few minutes at the office to send person e-mail may be acceptable, but hours of personal correspondence is not. Chain letters and jokes should be reserved for your personal e-mail on your personal time because this reduces your productivity and robs the company of your time at work.

Your e-mails should have a subject line that is appropriate to the content and an e-mail signature with contact information. Do not type in BOLD LETTERS – this is interpreted as yelling.

Before sending an important e-mail, send it to yourself first and review it carefully to ensure that you have used the right language and that the e-mail conveys the correct tone. Let the e-mail sit in your draft box for at least 30 minutes and read it one last time before you hit the send button; there is no way to recall an e-mail once it leaves your box.

Notify the recipient of your e-mail before you send attachments because viruses are prevalent. A recipient may be wary of attachments from an unfamiliar address. Notification is also necessary when sending unusually large files because downloading may be time consuming for some recipients.

If an e-mail has been sent to multiple recipients think twice before you hit the reply button. If your message is just for one person on the list, do not hit the reply-all button because everyone on that list will receive the message. This can be annoying if the matter does not concern them.

• Karen Hinds works with companies and professionals to develop their competitive edge through effective communications, image management and customer service. Send comments and suggestions to