E-mail Etiquette 101

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You are a computer God. Okay, maybe not. You might be a computer Goddess. Capable of leaping tall network or storage infrastructures in a single bound or of scaling over server problems and – let me catch myself before the Superman comparisons require a cooling dose of kryptonite. But just because you are a computer pro does not mean that you can neglect the fundamentals of your profession. IT professionals live on e-mail. It’s inevitably the favored method of communication, and that’s perfectly fine. What’s not fine is using company e-mail for personal business, being unprofessional, indiscreet or sending out work-related e-mails that look like a dyslexic toddler wrote them.


You are an IT professional. That means you are capable of more than technical wizardry/competence. You also should be a top-notch communicator of the verbal and the written word. Write in complete sentences. Use the spell check. It’s free! And never, ever, send angry e-mails. Don’t even write them with the intention of venting and then erasing them. You could hit the wrong key by mistake and Pow! A tiny time bomb lands in someone’s Inbox, and later it blows up in your face. And because e-mail is forever (once it’s printed out and stored in your personnel file), the shock waves from that one, misguided, bad-tempered e-mail can reverberate and continue to haunt you long after you hit send.


Don’t use company e-mail for personal business. Period. You never know when big brother is watching. A recent article on Wired.com said that some 33 percent of big companies in the U.S. and Britain hire employees to read and analyze outbound e-mail. The article said these companies were attempting to guard against legal, financial or regulatory risk, but your lack of interest in company sabotage doesn’t mean your boss isn’t keeping tabs on your Outbox. Use your Yahoo! or Hotmail or Tmail or whichever personal e-mail account instead.


Likewise, don’t vent over deadlines or crummy work conditions or air any kind of personal grievance on company e-mail. Be discreet. The people you’re venting to likely can’t help you anyway, so what’s the point? If you need to let off steam, do it outside of the office or through your personal e-mail. Be very sure that your coworkers won’t share what you say or forward what you write. Everyone’s not your friend, even if they say you are. I’m not advocating not having friends at work. Most coworkers can be trusted to keep your gripes between their lips, but why not err on the caution side and be 100 percent sure that no one can ever point a finger at you, the failed student of e-mail etiquette 101?

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