Did you know almost 2 million e-mails are sent every second? This is according to research by The Radicati Group. For many business people, e-mail is the main method of communication. And yet Lycos reports that e-mails sent in error are at the astonishing rate of 42 every minute, such as the sensitive documents a Government department inadvertently sent to the BBC about a contentious issue with a Financial Times journalist. Poor netiquette can annoy or offend your colleagues and clients. So before you send your next e-mail, consider these 10 warnings.
1. If you’re not careful, your e-mail can get you fired. Apparently, abuse of company internet and e-mail is the single most common trigger for disciplinary action in the UK.
2. Be careful about recounting personal details in an e-mail, and the person you send it to. Remember the e-mail sent to colleagues at a law firm about Claire Swire’s sexual preferences? It spread like wildfire as it got circulated all over the world.
3. Avoid sleaze and pornography. Two of Scottish Courage’s city brewery workers were sacked after being caught distributing pornography by e-mail to staff at work. Is your job and family’s security really worth that?
4. Does your company have a system in place to monitor your e-mail? Complain about the boss and chances are very high someone you really don’t want to read your rant will see it – your boss.
5. Not all colleagues will share your sense of humour, especially when it comes to off-colour, sexist or racist jokes. After Chevron employees passed around an e-mail entitled ’25 reasons why beer is better than women,’ four female employees sued the company for sexual harassment.
6. When it comes time for employees’ quarterly and annual reviews, do it in person and not the cowardly or impersonal way by e-mail.
7. Lycos found almost a quarter of messages made fun of the person they were sent to and over 15 per cent included had sent critical e-mails to entirely the wrong person. Witness Alistair Campbell; he sent an expletive-laden e-mail tirade against a BBC journalist – to the journalist in question.
8. Another common mistake is forwarding messages which have previous conversations further down in the e-mail contents. Lycos also discovered 30 per cent of wayward messages revealed more than their senders intended.
9. DON’T USE ALL UPPERCASE! It’s the e-mail equivalent of yelling. Your recipient won’t be appreciative. And don’t “ovrabbrvt” either.
10. BCC isn’t always blind. When a recipient selects ‘reply to everyone,’ those listed in the BCC field will now show up in the new sender’s ‘to’ field. If you don’t want your BCC recipients revealed to others, send them a separate e-mail. The University of East Anglia’s Sportspark was accused of breaking the data protection act after a staff member accidentally sent out all their customers’ e-mail addresses to over a thousand people.
E-mail has become a much relied-upon business tool. According to industry analyst firm the Meta Group, 74 per cent of businesspeople said being without e-mail would present more of a hardship than being without the telephone. However, in the wrong hands, indiscreet e-mails can cost people jobs, clients, business deals and even marriages.