There was a very popular expression before the 1960s: Don’t do anything you would not want to see printed on the front page of the New York Times. The 2016 equivalent: Don’t put anything in an email you would not want featured on CNN. News of email misuse have filled thousands of pages of government reports, provided material for headlines and news bites, and have justified the termination of employees in just the last few weeks.
You know that Interview2work is all about helping college students, new graduates, and young professionals land the job they want. We also help new graduates and young professionals keep those jobs by providing college to career transition coaching. Understanding how email works in the corporate, non-profit, and public sector can help avoid being the lead story on CNN and stay gainfully employed.
If there are more than three people working at your company, non-profit, or public sector organization, there is probably an email policy. Hopefully, it is available in print. If not, you will need to ask some questions. Before you send your first email find out which of these policies your company has:
Only business related emails can go out on the company server. That means sending out personal emails using your company email address AND accessing your person email account via the internet at any time (that includes lunch and breaks) is a violation of company policy. The internet may belong to the world; the server belongs to the company. Violating this policy is considered a misuse company property. If you violate it during work hours, you are also not performing your job duties, another reason for termination. Few businesses are this strict, but it is better to find out the first day than be terminated the first week (yes it has happened).
The company allows you to use your computer to check and send a reasonable amount of personal email. Though this sounds like a much easier policy to live with, the concept of “reasonable” has been the basis of many court cases. One person’s reasonable is another person’s excessive. As a new employee, until you figure out what is considered “reasonable”, limit your use of social media and email to 10 minutes during your work hours. Save the rest for breaks and lunch hours. Any email you send can be reviewed by the organization and violations of company policy on harassment, discrimination, expressing political options, can be grounds for termination. Deleting an email at your workstation does not delete it from the server.
Avoid being featured on CNN or spending the afternoon in the Human Resources office discussing the context of your email to you BFF. It pays (your salary) to follow email policies.