If you’re having a really bad day and spout off about a co-worker or customer, what would happen if that embarrassing email was exposed?  

Olivia Nuzzi, political reporter for The Daily Beast, advised “Dance like no one is watching; email like it may one day be read aloud in a deposition.”  It was meant as a caution to politicians, but it applies to businesspeople, too.

Here are five common-sense email rules to save you from embarrassment if your email is hacked:

1.  Remember your role in the company and stick to it

 Every company has its own culture, and we all have accepted ways to communicate with each other.  What you might say to someone over drinks after work is different than what you should write in a company email during the day.  Gossip, sharing confidential information, or general mean-spiritedness have no place in the workplace or in your emails.

2.  Calm down

 When you’re angry or upset is NOT the time to send an email.  Vent in writing if you need to, but save it as a draft and come back to it in a few hours (or even the next day).  Whatever you do, don’t hit “send” –  you’ll likely regret it later.

3. Watch your language

Keep your tone and language as neutral as possible, and don’t use vulgar words.  Emails that contain intimidating, hostile or offensive language can not only be damaging to your company reputation but can also be grounds for lawsuits.  If the email is exposed, it will no longer be “just a joke”. 

4.  Separate personal from business

Sometimes it’s ok to blur the lines between personal and business in your office email.  Make sure you understand the policies for your organization, and don’t expect privacy.  If your office email is hacked (or a manager decides to take a look) and you’ve been sending cute notes to your co-worker in the next cubicle, that could be a problem. 

5.  Use “bcc” and “reply all” sparingly

You might embarrass other people (unintentionally) if they’re the recipients of an inappropriate email you couldn’t resist sharing.  Only reply to those who really need the information.  While there are situations where “bcc” makes sense, think through why you’re keeping the “bcc” recipient hidden. 

It takes more than knowing when to click and when not to click to protect information.  Use these tips to avoid writing embarrassing emails, and you’ll protect both your business data and potentially your reputation if your email is hacked. 


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