Email Abuse at Work

Who hasn’t received an email from a relative, friend, or co-worker that contains a joke, a complaint about someone you know, or a request for career advice? Where do you draw the line between what is funny and what is inappropriate in an email? You should know that, more and more, employers are spending significant resources reading your outgoing emails to identify any inappropriate messages that you might be sending.I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal’s Career Journal today entitled “Email Abuse at Work Could Get You Fired”. The article discusses the dangers of frequent and inappropriate emails in the office.

The author, Andrea Coombs, writes that “Almost one-third of companies said they’ve fired an employee in the last 12 months for violating email policies and 52% of the companies said they have disciplined an employee for violating email rules in the past year, according to a survey of 294 U.S. firms with 1,000 or more workers.”

Coombs also cites more startling figures: 38% of companies employ staff to read or analyze outgoing email messages; 44% of companies with 20,000 or more employees have staff reviewing outgoing emails; and nearly 50% of the companies said they regularly audit outbound email content.

These companies’ reasons for reading emails are based on protecting customer data, trade secrets, and financial data, as well as complying with corporate-governance regulations. In fact, many companies actually prohibit emailing non-employees.

The bottom line here is that, more and more, companies are beginning to take a closer look at their employees’ emailing habits, and how these habits not only compromise productivity, but company policy as well. Coombs’ article points out that while the majority of companies do have policies in place dictating an official stand on email use, only slightly more than 50% of these companies actually trained employees on this email policy.

It’s a good idea to check with your HR manager to discuss what your employer’s policy is on email use.