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Feb 12, 2015

It starts out innocently enough.

One of your employees receives an email from a co-worker with a hilarious description of a difficult client. Amused, they forward the email along to the other members of their team.

Quiet laughter fills your office as the email spreads like wildfire. Then, your phone rings.

The damage from email can run deep

On the other end of the line is the aforementioned difficult client and he sounds less than amused. You’re filled with dread as you realize your employee’s mistake — they accidentally forwarded the mocking email to your client as well and he’s ready to call your business relationship quits.

Email mistakes happen every day. At times, these mishaps are simply embarrassing for the involved parties.

Sometimes, though, the damage is deeper and once done, cannot be restored. Just one email mistake can result in the loss of money for your company and the termination of employees.

To avoid poor judgment by your employees via email, it is important to develop and communicate the proper use of company email systems to all employees.

What you need for an effective email policy

The following components are integral to the effectiveness of an email policy:

  1. A statement informing employees on whether or not the company intends to monitor employee emails. If your company chooses to monitor employee email, the policy should state the reason for doing so and the scope of surveillance. Employees should not instilled with fear of being monitored, but they should have a clear understanding that they have no privacy regarding any emails created, sent, or saved in the company’s email system.
  2. A statement informing employees that the email system is the employer’s property. For some reason, they do not understand, or forget that their email transmissions are not private documents and this leads to trouble. The policy should communicate to employees that emails should be used for the benefit of the business. It should also state whether personal emails are permitted and clearly define the limitations, if any, on personal use of the system.
  3. A statement clearly outlining the rules of using the company’s email system. The policy should expressly state that the email system should not be used for the distribution of:
    • Confidential or sensitive information;
    • Offensive or discriminatory information;
    • Illegal or unauthorized information, etc.;

Also included, should be a statement that employees who receive any emails with content that breaches the policy should report the matter to their supervisor immediately.

It must be well communicated – and enforced

To protect your company and employees from potential legal exposure due to inappropriate emails, ensure your company email policy is well-communicated and strictly enforced. To assure the policy is understood by all employees, distribute an email policy contract to all employees and require a signature of acknowledgement that they have received, read, understand and abide by the rules set forth in the policy.

For extra precautions, include the policy in employee handbooks and publish on the intranet, so employees always have access to the document.

This was originally published on the Genesis HR Solutions blog.