Monday, March 24, 2008

Think before you hit the 'forward' button

Dear Diversity Diva,
I work for a large business and occasionally get e-mails that are of a patriotic and religious nature from friends within the company and outside the company that I like to forward to my friends at work. It’s never been a problem but lately I’ve wondered.
Fan of Forwarding Favorite E-mails
Dear Fan,
Two of the most dangerous jobs in an office setting can be hitting the “send” button and using the “forward” function for e-mails.
On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with passing on patriotism or good spiritual cheer to fellow compatriots in the workplace. And if diversity is about understanding and navigating differences, sending e-mails to like-minded people would not seem to be a problem.
But work e-mail is company property — which means you have no privacy rights regarding the e-mail address your employer gives you to use. Therefore, what would be innocent when sent from your private e-mail at home to someone else’s private e-mail becomes something else, particularly if the topic has any possibility of offending.
Although you say you just send your e-mails to friends at work, we all know forwarding e-mails to others is common and you have no control over whether one of your coworkers forwards it to someone who is offended. Or someone may print a copy of your e-mail but then forget to pick it up at the printer and so what didn’t offend the original recipient ends up rubbing someone else wrong who sees the e-mail lying around.
Almost all companies these days have strict policies on the sending or forwarding of personal e-mails. And while many are inconsistent about enforcing those policies, they exist so that they can be enforced when necessary or desired. For example, I know of an instance where a man was fired because he forwarded to his own personal e-mail account the naughty e-mail photos that a friend had sent to him at work.
To reduce the chance of potential misunderstandings and outright violations, start steering your friends toward e-mailing you these items to a home e-mail account. At the very least, keep the forwarding of personal e-mails at work to an absolute minimum.

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