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Technology / Managing email

Email etiquette when confidentiality is important

A survey on the Flying Solo website found that over 54% of respondents believe it is appropriate email etiquette to discuss sensitive business topics via email. I think this is a huge risk for soloists and our customers.

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Recently I met with a partner of a law firm who spoke of concerns within the practice in relation to business email etiquette and confidentiality. In this instance, several staff were sending and receiving emails relative to a particular case. One employee decided to forward a message – and its chain of email history –  to someone outside the business.

Luckily all was okay in this instance. Although the employee’s intentions were pure, the practice could have been open to the possibility of litigation as a result of the individual’s action. Not only would the firm’s integrity be open to question, but so too would the individual who forwarded the email.

Email has become so much a part of our everyday lives that we often react to it rather than use it as it was intended – as a tool to assist our business communications.

It isn’t our only form of communication!

"Take a deep breath and think about your email before you send it."

Just as we often have to revisit the basic principles of customer service and sales, so too we should revisit our personal email etiquette and protocols.

When sending and receiving emails it is important to ask ourselves a number of pertinent questions:

  • Is email the most appropriate way to respond to this?
  • Would a phone call result in a more immediate outcome/resolution?
  • Is there any information in this email or documentation that may be considered organisational or client related intellectual property or confidential?

Want more articles like this? Check out the managing email section.

If the answer to any of these is yes, then stop!

Take a deep breath and think about your email before you send it. By thinking, we shift our mindset from reactive to proactive. We start to consider the impact and appropriateness of sending an email.

A few moments spent considering the situation can save you from potential embarrassment and humiliation.

Donna Hanson

specialises in computer and technology related education for business and corporate users. Her company provides customised training and resources to help users understand and increase their knowledge of computer related technology.

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