Business email can be incredibly powerful in terms of contacting large numbers of people in a split second, this is also where a range of problems can arise. The impulsive decision to click ‘Reply All’ instead of ‘Reply’ can actually be the difference between keeping a job and being dismissed in the most serious circumstances, which is why HR managers should be on the lookout for certain tell-tale signs of email misuse.
Email Mistakes Employees Make
‘Reply’ and ‘Reply All’ should be confused at your peril
This is a leading cause of embarrassment and conflict surrounding emails because private and confidential information can suddenly be sent to an entire list of people. Make sure it is always made clear when an email has been sent to multiple people, and don’t make the same mistakes as these people.
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The nature of most emails is that previous communications in the same thread will automatically display underneath, meaning that your employees could fall into the same trap as this unfortunate estate agent in the news recently. Employees should be aware that every message will be archived.
Random email monitoring can pick up inappropriate conversations
Most corporate email networks are monitored by management and IT admin staff, which means that any inappropriate or sexual content can be detected by a number of flags and filters. If this behaviour can be categorised as gross misconduct, senior members of staff will have the evidence to prove and deal with it.
Business emails are not a dating service substitute
This is related strongly to the third point above, but this is more to do with making direct contact to try and arrange a date with another colleague. Employees should always bear in mind that email has a paper trail that won’t develop when people communicate face to face. In the event that inappropriate behaviour is reported, managers will again have the hard evidence to take necessary action.
Data protection guidelines are easily broken, so awareness is needed
Private and confidential client data is usually protected when emails are kept within a corporate network, and an employee sending it to an external email address for use at home may be putting both the client and the company into a vulnerable position. While the company may be insured against data loss from an authorised email address, this is likely to be invalidated once a third-party email provider is involved.
What Managers Can Do
Set rules about ‘flooding’ the email system
The nature of email is that all of the necessary points can be typed and transmitted at the same time. Two employees that are simply bouncing brief messages back and forth to one another could end up ‘flooding’ the system and eating up vital resources that could be used elsewhere.
Set rules about sending external emails
Many companies usually specify that corporate-branded email addresses are for internal communications only, with members of the public only receiving messages from specified outward-bound email addresses. If an internal email address becomes public knowledge, the floodgates could be truly thrown open.
Extra vigilance is required ‘out of hours’
If your employees wait for you and your IT admin staff to go home before sending inappropriate content, it is worth bearing in mind that most filters are software-based, and more importantly they can be set up to automatically monitor emails around the clock. In reality, employees are just as likely to be caught out on Friday night as they are at 11am on Monday morning.
Automatic blocks need to be designed to prevent circumvention
If staff are blocked from sending an attachment or a particular type of content, the system will usually have a good reason for this, and they should usually be encouraged to approach an IT administrator to find out more. Any attempt to try and get around the filters and firewalls should be flagged up by modern monitoring software, and it is a good idea to try and follow up on each incident with the employee concerned.
Keeping an eye on non-work related activities
When employees send emails that don’t relate to work, they are essentially wasting company resources and time. Filters are once again an essential tool for this, and it may also be prudent to investigate when the same employees persistently contact each other. These exchanges will often be legitimate enough, but a quick check cannot do any harm.
About the author:
Sebastian Bos is a digital marketer working at RocketMill, an innovative UK based digital marketing agency. He enjoys football, staying fit and staying up to date with the latest tech.