Someone's reading your email at work

This is a bit of old news, but the NYT is running a story on how companies read their employees’ email at work. The bottom line’s worth repeating, because people just don’t seem to learn: don’t use work email for personal messages!

I say this from experience. I’ve been an IT Director twice in my career, and I read people’s emails on both occasions. I didn’t and I don’t relish it – as a matter of fact, I hate it. But I had to do it, in order to see if activities that could incriminate or damage the organization were taking place.

Now I understand that my IT policies were actually pretty relaxed. I didn’t read email all the time, only when someone or something aroused my suspicion or that of the executives, and it was then that I went searching for evidence. I understand that in other places, this sort of a thing is automated, and happens routinely. Every email going out of the company is either scanned by a machine for keywords, or read by an employee, or even worse, every piece of email, internal or external, is scanned and flagged for further review as needed.

People, learn from this! It was not seldom that I stumbled onto emails where employees were flirting with each other at work, or talking about their supervisors in demeaning language. These sorts of things result in disciplinary action! If you’ve got to talk about those things, get a personal email account, and do it there, but don’t use company email for that sort of a thing! But I guess if you’re ignorant enough to badmouth your boss with a co-worker while you’re at work and supposed to be working, you’re ignorant enough to talk about it on company emails that can and will be used against you.

It’s time people realized the whole of their work activities is a permanent record, and this includes emails, and pretty soon will likely include voicemails. Make sure your email record is squeaky clean, and reflects your work ethic. If you talk the talk, walk the walk! If you say you’re a professional, let your email reflect that. Ask yourself this: if someone were to go through your work email now, would you be ashamed of what they’d find there? Is there something you could be disciplined or lose face for? If you work in a company that deals with secret/classified information, are you leaking company secrets, knowingly or not? If there is, cut it out! Put a stop to it! It won’t do any good to go back and delete emails, the company probably keeps a backup of the messages anyway. Just change your behavior and move on.

If you must get personal emails at work, use your personal account, or get a free webmail account from Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail, and check that. Tell people to SMS you on your cellphone instead of emailing you. But for goodness’ sake, and for the sake of your career and bank account, don’t use your work account! It’s just plain dumb.