Emails Are Fun! (Until They are Not)

We all do it, and we all enjoy it. I have received many funny and clever emails, pictures, videos, audio files, written jokes. If I enjoy it, I send it on to my group of office buddies so they can have a laugh too. What harm can that be?

We also all know that we are responsible for what we say, including what we email, post, tweet…whatever. We are free to say what we want, but we also free to be held accountable for what we say, post, or email.

Mike Cuma of Legacy Bowes Group makes a persuasive case for second thought at sending that funny email, and has created a universal principle for all users of workplace information systems called the “Principle of Unintended Consequences”, which can kick into high gear the second you hit ‘send’. In short, you are what you send, and if you don’t manage the message before you hit that button, you are not taking care of your biggest employment asset: you!

I once got active in a local political issue, which involved distributing flyers, writing letters to the editor, blogging and commenting on blogs. While the issue is still near and dear to my heart, I did not consider what could happen when others got a hold of those emails…they made it quickly to political opponents, who made unethical, but very effective, use of that information to redirect the discussion to an issue that played to his strength. This simple plan to voice my opinion and get media coverage was successful in the sense that the issue was front page news for five days in a row, but it was not exactly the coverage that was expected and it was a little more politics than I had intended.

Imagine if you sent a funny but inappropriate email to one or two colleagues, and then they forwarded it on and it got to someone who had an ax to grind, or who was genuinely offended by the email? You would be on the carpet and your star could fall. Depending on the circumstances, you might go through a stressful disciplinary process, put any advancement at risk or simply be sidelined in the company.

If you work in a highly political or competitive environment, you might want to heed the advice in Mike Cuma’s blog: don’t hit send!

Read Mike’s blog on the subject here: http://www.legacybowes.com/latest-blog-posts/entry/workplace-messaging-guidelines-the-secret-principle-you-need-to-know.html

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