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We’re Tired of Hearing about Your Damn E-mails


Photo Credit: Lea Latumahina, Flickr

Photo Credit: Lea Latumahina, Flickr

This time of year every summer you’ll find me in Wisconsin, eating bratwurst, swimming in the lake, doing crafts. . .and watching American television.

There’s always something going on at this time that brings political discussion to the dinner table.  We’re an American family, and it can’t be helped.  Sometimes it is a Supreme Court decision; this year it is Clinton’s e-mails.

Before you click off this post, please know that this blog post isn’t actually about Clinton’s e-mails specifically.  But if there is one thing I take away from having the time to sit there for hours listening to FBI Director Comey’s testimony in front of Congress about her e-mails, it is that on reflection we in North America haven’t quite figured out e-mail yet.

As an HR Professional, this is becoming more real to me with each passing day.

In recent years we in the profession have really focused in on good social media etiquette.  You know the principles.  Don’t write things that you might regret later.  Don’t post pictures you might regret later.   If I just refer to HR professionals and their social media use, these days I see a lot of “safe” posts. . .you know, pictures of cats and dogs and flowers, or content about HRMS systems or total rewards strategies.  In recent years I see less of stories about things stupid people did at work, out of fear that it might be possible to match up the names of real people.  I also see less discussion about strategies, knowing somewhere in the detail there may be confidential information.

In the Clinton world we are talking about classified information; the stuff that really can’t be shared with the public; the stuff that the Snowdens of the world fish to find.  It is very important to protect that stuff.  There are protocols for this, although perhaps so many that it is too easy to become offside with these protocols.

For the rest of us, we are really dealing with confidential information.

Or sensitive information.

Or information that might be later used in legal proceedings.

Or information that might lead to investigations of discrimination or harassment.

We need protocols for these too.

I want to ask you, my HR friends, how strong are your e-mail policies?  Do your employees know when to cc: someone?  bcc: someone?  Do they know that their e-mail is not private?  Do they know when to mark something privileged and who to include in an e-mail if it is to be sent that way?  Do your employees know when to pick up the phone vs. e-mail?  Do they know not to send jokes?  Does your company have rules about the length of an e-mail, or rules about not responding through the Reply All feature?

Do your employees understand CASL requirements for an e-mail going outside an organization?

Do you feel your company has provided sufficient training regarding e-mail protocols?

Do you have sufficient rules about what devices can be used to communicate?

And what is your own level of competency regarding e-mail policies?  I thought I was pretty good, but just watching the testimony, I’ve learned a lot and will continue to improve my e-mail behaviour.

You would think that more than 20 years in with this technology we would’ve figured this out by now, but clearly we haven’t.



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