Caution will control power of the e-mail

David
Taylor offers guidance on putting in place a company e-mail policy that is fair
to everybody

Forget
the dotcom hype, mobile technology and the Internet – the biggest growth area
of the new business age by far is e-mail, and this brings a huge opportunity
for HR leaders.

E-mails
feed our reactive, rather than responsive behaviour, often failing to make the
points intended, and are too often used as an alternative to other means of
contact. As one of the most public, powerful and prevalent forms of
communication, there is a need for caution, care and clarity and, once this is
done, it can be hugely positive.

You
can set a company trend in HR by doing the following:
– Make e-mails friendly (write Dear name, and always end on a friendly note)
– Use the term “we” rather than “you” and always put yourself in the place of
the recipient – reading through what you have written before you send it
– Ensure that the quality of e-mails we send is as good as those we receive.

It
may be time to put in place company guidance, covering the key issues:

Information on other companies
To avoid litigation do not use e-mail to discuss competitors, potential
acquisitions or mergers, or to give your opinion about another company. The
word confidential simply does not apply to electronic communication – somebody
else in your organisation can always access it.

Personal
e-mails
Many companies are concerned about the growing numbers of non-work related
correspondence. The key words here are guidelines and trust. Put in place a
clear policy that gives some freedom, but ensure staff know the boundaries on
time and content. Manage your staff by giving them ownership and responsibility.

Aggressive
e-mails
It is one thing to misunderstand the sender’s intent, quite another to
deliberately attack someone by e-mail. Business bullying is now recognised by
industrial tribunals as a form of illegal behaviour in itself.

Sexual
harassment
The cases of this, and stalking over e-mail, are growing. Company policy
must be extended to include this area and should lead to dismissal. Encourage
people to come forward with evidence and make it clear that all e-mails are
held on the mainframe or network after they have been written. This will
discourage most people.

Chain
e-mails
These are both unpleasant and destructive in terms of time, volume of
traffic on a network and personal well-being. Treat these seriously, root out
their origins and invite recipients to send them to you.

Electronic
communications are no different from every other form and there should be no
need for complex guidelines, rules and restrictions. As long as everyone is
clear on your company’s policy, none of these potential dangers will grow out
of hand.

David
Taylor is president of the association of IT directors, Certus e-mail: david.taylor@dtaltd.co.uk

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