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Old emails turn like bad pennies and can be expensive

Posted Tuesday December 3rd, 2013, 6:14 pm by

Over fifteen years of writing two books on email best practice and many articles, not surprisingly I have files full of email media disasters from the early stories of naughty Claire Swire emails to the more serious ones where Kirsty Walk asked her PA to hack into someone else’s inbox to retrieve some damaging emails.

When will we learn that no matter how hard we try to erase an email we wish we had never sent, someone will have a copy.  Furthermore as we become increasingly litigiousness manyoops organisation now archive all email traffic in and out of their servers. Two press stories prompted me to write again on this topic.  First, there is the phone hacking trial in which copious evidence is email related.  At one point the management team tried to destroy all old emails only to find not surprisingly that they had been archived by their mail provider.

Second, was the recent email trail between Ed Miliband and a senior aide which branded Ed  Balls as a ‘nightmare’.  This was a classic case of not only putting something stupid into an email but then compounding the felony by sending it to the wrong  person!

What can we do to avoid such email scandals which seem to now occur regularly?  Recall the email.  No that doesn’t work as I now have it and am intrigued why you are recalling it.

Here are my top three tips:

  1. Pause before hitting send and ask yourself what will be the consequence if this email is taken out of context?  Is this something that I want other people to know about?
  2. Write a rules which sends all your emails to the draft box before they actually leave your device.
  3. Check and re-check that you are sending the email to the right Frank Smith/Jane Wise.

Most people feel compelled to either reply instantly they receive a new email or fire off an email when feeling cross.  This usually results in unnecessary emails chains which often spiral into email wars and drive up the email overload.  There is a time and place for chatting and gossip but email is not that place.

Do you want to reduce the risk that someone in your organisation will make an email faux pass?  Call us now and ask about how our Brilliant Email Management masterclass can help you and your organisation prevent such email disasters (which are often very expensive in terms of damage limitation PR and putting people on gardening leave).

Meanwhile, dare to share, what are your tips for avoiding an email disaster?  Have you ever been subject such an email scandal?

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