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Have We Gotten Too Comfortable With Email?



Have We Gotten Too Comfortable With Email?
June, 2004 Independents Newsletter

The use of email has definitely given business and business owners some advantages. We can respond to email while returning phone calls; answer questions and get information without playing telephone tag; or get information quickly to a colleague across the state without waiting for snail mail; but, have we begun to rely on this mode of communication too much. Yes, in a busy day shooting off an email can save some time. However, from a Human Resources perspective, this type of communication can be particularly risky.

  1. Don’t document employee performance problems in an email. Use the appropriate format in your company and have the conversation personally.
  2. Don’t use email to request approval for a termination, or to request advice from your manager or Human Resources on delicate issues.
    One Company’s Example:
    An employee has recently communicated to you that they have been diagnosed with a serious illness and subsequently goes out for treatment. As the manager, you send emails to your supervisor regarding the situation. In these emails you express your doubt about the treatment, question whether or not the illness is real, ask if you are going to have to let the employee always go to the doctor, etc. These emails ping-pong around from supervisor, to manager, to director and back. Subsequently, the employee in question is laid off due to job elimination. The job elimination may be very valid; however, these emails have created a great deal of “smoke” surrounding the employee’s disability.
  3. Do be aware that your email deleted or not, can be considered documentation in an investigation or law suit. Consider writing an email the same as writing a letter and placing it in the employee’s file. In other words, you wouldn’t mind anyone, including the employee or a government agency, reading what you have to say.
  4. Be very careful when including salary information, social security numbers or other private information, in an email or attachment. You don’t always know where the email will end up.

Electronic communication has helped make businesses more efficient. Awareness of when and when not to use this communication tool will avoid future surprises.

Information in this article is not intended to provide legal or human resources compliance advice and should be used for general information only.

KM Consulting Group provides Human Resources solutions to small and medium size companies.

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