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Watch what you say March 5, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.

logan gartner   Gartner Group analyst Debra Logan, recently wrote that legal “settlements have been based on…electronic evidence and more specifically on email. So companies are quite worried about the vast amounts of electronic information that they have.”

This got me wondering about personal e-mail policies we should all practice. My mentor and supervisor at the university told me that one of his guiding practices, as a superintendent was never to write or say anything you would not like to see in the local headlines the next day. As a personal and business policy, it makes sense. Perhaps we can carry this policy even farther.

  • We should never write or say anything that we would not want to end up in court.
  • We should never write or say anything we would not feel at ease saying to our children, parents, or spouse.
  • We should never write or say anything we know to be a falsehood.
  • We should never write or say anything designed to enhance or inflate our egos 

It seems the more we personalize the inevitable accountability of an electronic trail, the more the advice takes on spiritual or religious tones.

  • Never speak (or write e-mails) in anger.
  • Never use your words, spoken or in e-mail, as a tool for the destruction or belittling of another person.

I am not too sure, but watching what you say just seems to make common sense. The alternatives are either getting off the grid entirely and never respond with e-mail to anything or put yourself and your reputation at risk my not thinking carefully about what you say and write.

When I moderated several discussion lists a few years back, it never ceased to surprise me that people would hide behind what they thought was the anonymity of e-mail to lambaste a co-worker or colleague. On some lists, the vitriol reached such levels that I had to leave the list or turn the moderating duties over to someone else. Now that lists are beginning to fade to be replaced by the more fashionable blog or threaded discussion board, the vitriol is still there, it just doesn’t clutter up my e-mail inbox.





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