Did you really want to send that email?

What a p…..k Gordon is! He was getting on alright under the circumstances and then he says the wrong thing at the wrong time. Well let’s not talk about that, as every political pundit out there has already done it and every possible opinion has been aired. The net result is that whatever the outcome of the election or football world championships this summer, someone will have predicted it is the result of what Gordon said.

No, much more interesting are what lessons we can learn as Enterprise Britain. Google has recognised the ability of everyone to say (or in this case email) the wrong thing at the wrong time. Now just because we blame it on drunkenness Google lets you take a maths test which you could not possibly do when drunk (or for some even when sober I suspect) before the email is sent. This is to protect you from sending someone a message you may regret when sober.

That is no protection for the things we all see happen in the workplace. How many of us have never sent an email to a colleague, a customer or supplier in the wrong frame of mind? We all have. Just because we are not hooked up to microphones does not mean we do not make the same errors as Gordon. In fact it must be a challenge to every call centre to ensure the staff does not say something inappropriate when they think their microphone is off.

Emails carry much more risk. Remember the message sent by a woman in London to her boyfriend which went along the lines of “your c..m is yum”. Within a day or so there were a million copies spread around the globe and both employees lost their jobs – not to mention the embarrassment they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.

So how do we protect ourselves against these gaffs? Well there are a few simple rules:

  • Never respond to an email in anger
  • Never have a discussion by email, especially not a heated one. Discuss face to face, or if you must by telephone, and then confirm your conclusions by email
  • Do not insert email addresses until you are ready to send the email. This stops you from sending the email if you by accident hit the send button
  • If you have a complicated email or a delicate matter to settle, write your email in draft and then sleep on it
  • Remember:
    • Emails can serve as evidence against you and/or your company
    • You can never destroy all copies of an email. A copy is always somewhere on some server
    • Someone will find the copy at an inconvenient moment.

Oh life was so easy before all this technology, but let’s admit – it is fun to see someone make a fool of themselves through a very human error. And the possibility of having fun at someone else’s expense has increased dramatically.

Vote wisely!

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