Be careful with email

What a useful business tool emails are, and what a rod for your back if misused. Here are some essentials…

I recently received an email from someone – not meant for me, from one colleague to another, talking about me. I politely let them know their email had accidentally come to me – and they didn’t apologise or even acknowledge the mistake.


It’s a push of a button – SEND – with the wrong names in the “To” section or the “CC” section that can get you into a lot of trouble.


We all need to be careful with email – to avoid legal and other dangers, and increase email professionalism. Learn the main email dangers and preventative actions every business should undertake.


Emails may be monitored
Emails are a written form of communication and can be monitored. In some businesses even deleted messages can still be retrieved. Don’t write anything you would not feel comfortable being read by anyone in your business.


Emails are subject to laws
Emails can be used as evidence in legal cases and are subject to laws and rules. They shouls not, for example, include pornographic material.


Develop email policies
Every business should identify clear email policies. If software is used to monitor adherence to policy, this should be made clear. There should also be clear rules about what is acceptable and unacceptable, for example harassment issues.


Policies need agreement
Senior managers must endorse policies and act as role models. There is no point making rules for others and breaking them at the higher levels.


Publicise policies
Every opportunity should be used to publicise the policies – fo example, new starters can be advised at induction, or even have these built into their employment contracts and agreements. Clarify issues for all staff, what is meant by privacy and confidentiality, “trade secrets”, productivity, harassment, personal use, company monitoring etc.
Managers’ responsibilities include monitoring and giving feedback.


Email professionalism

  • Reply quickly, but accurately.
  • Don’t miss subject line – name it meaningfully.
  • Use name – at least initially in emails that go back and forth.
  • Number points, segments or questions and or use headings.
  • Respond to all parts – even use a different colour to answer points.
  • Use for meeting confirmations and agendas.
  • Summarise actions and key points for agreement.
  • Don’t use email for critical feedback – but good for public praise.
  • Avoid long emails and don’t send large, unwanted emails.
  • Don’t use UPPER CASE.
  • Avoid unclear jargon or SMS short cuts.
  • Don’t leave a long email trail that isn’t needed anymore.
  • Manage your emails – filing, responding and ensuring the right people receive them.
  • Provide your job title and contact details in your signature.


Emails can cause a lot of stress when they are not managed well – so make a point of setting standards for who and when to CC and BCC, and what should and should not be printed, and what time frames should be adhered to for various requests. Ensure emails an effective business tool.

Play See the video Be careful with email




Eve Ash is a psychologist and co-producer with Peter Quarry of Be Careful with Email (from the Take Away Training Series). © Ash.Quarry Productions.



To read more Eve Ash blogs, click here.



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