“Before you speak, think- Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind? Will it hurt anyone? Will it improve on the silence?” Sri Sathya Sai Baba
If you do not have one in place, consider an email protocol or policy for your company. Email can create risk for a company if used improperly. For example, opinions and statements that you make in an email may later be discovered in a litigation proceeding, including employment related litigation, and cause potential liability for your business. In addition, an email may unintentionally legally bind the company to a contract or course of action. Further, email may be leaked to the media causing negative publicity for your business. The following seven (7) guidelines for email communication may help minimize your firm’s exposure in a subsequent internal or external dispute:
- No disparagement. Do not make uninformed or disparaging remarks, including about another employee or personnel, a customer or vendor.
- Avoid opinions and commitments. Avoid stating opinions or making commitments in email that may be legally binding on the company.
- Be professional. Always draft professional emails. Avoid sarcasm, off-the-cuff, profane or rude comments.
- Avoid angry and emotional emails. If you are angry or upset, avoid sending emails until you are level headed. Do not send angry, all-caps, emails.
- Don’t use company email for personal business. Limit use of company email for personal matters.
- Minimize volume of email. Excessive email in the system wastes space and time and complicates document production. Avoid reply all and forwarding spam email.
- Use the New York Times rule. If you are unsure whether an email is appropriate, consider how you would feel if the email ended up on the front page of the New York Times.
The above outlines some basic rules on email etiquette and protocol. Your business may have special needs or issues that would mandate a more formal policy or procedure, whether stand-alone or in an employee handbook.