b Self-Helpless: True Tales of a Working Girl: To email or not to email?



To email or not to email?

Apparently, that is the question. After viewing an article I saw on MSN Today, I followed a link to a message board where people were waxing pathetic about company email: is it ok or not ok to use company email for personal use?

What I want to know is: Why is this even a debate???

Since when is it ok to conduct personal business at the office? I mean sure, you have a lunch hour which allows the opportunity to get personal things done, but I don’t think that gives you license to use company property for something that it was not intended for. And people scratch their heads when they hear of someone getting fired for it. This should be a no-brainer folks.

THIS IS WHY THERE’S HOTMAIL, GMAIL, AND YAHOO! EMAIL ACCOUNTS! They’re free and you can access them during your lunch hour to check your personal email.

I’ll freely admit I had used company email accounts for personal use… but then I stopped doing that - years ago - when I realized (finally) that the company could totally access my account if they so desired. As it was, they could probably have made their way into my personal accounts, though I doubt they did. I became very careful about email for personal use when I saw how dangerous it could be.

Email can be tricky… however, a company email account should be used ONLY for company use. I mean, really.

Sometimes there are things that need to be taken care of during the day. Many companies (including the last two I've worked for) block access to any other email service like hotmail or yahoo. Thus they can't be checked during the day.
Trudi, you and I both know that people abuse email. If companies are blocking hotmail and yahoo, it's because they know this. That's even more of a reason to not use company email as they're obviously sensitive to it and are probably even monitoring what comes in and goes out - I have friends that do this for a living - unbeknownst to other employees.

I think the same goes for telephone use. It should be used for personal reasons - during lunch hours or before/after work - and even then only sparingly. In places where I used to work, I did not want people overhearing me (or listening in) scheduling doctor's appointments or other job interviews. Sure, empty offices can be used for this reason but that also tends to raise eyebrows.

People need to be smart about their personal use of company property, and I don't think that companies are wrong by putting forth policies that restrict it. That's all I'm saying.
I work for large health company and my sole job is anything related to e-mail. I regular get requests from HR to search for e-mail from people abusing the system. The company I work for captures every e-mail sent or received for 3 years. I like to say the company has a copy before you have a copy and both men and women or equally guilty. The last request was for e-mail was when a man was dating 2 women in the same office and sent a thank you for the night before to the wrong one. I also had to search e-mail for over 10 months for women who has having an affair and her husband subpoenaed her e-mail. Then the boneheaded guy who sent a joke e-mail that someone that did not find it funny. All I can say is people who think it is “OK” to use work e-mail for personal use should rethink it. Just like a wrench in a mechanics tool chest it is a tool for work to get your job done. One more note on e-mail, don’t send 20 e-mails to get one questioned answered pick up the phone and e-mail is not a CYA tool. If you are so worried that you need to send an e-mail to constantly cover your butt find a new job.
Dear Anonymous,

It sounds like you see some interesting emails! This is exactly the point I was making the other day about email: people should not be using company email for personal use. If they do, they should proceed knowing that someone could be watching.

However, I need to elaborate on email as a CYA tool. I wholeheartedly agree that it's probably time to find a new job if all you're doing is sending emails to CYA - BUT - it's not that simple. I was once in a situation where I was being character-assassinated and I refused to tolerate it. Anonymous, between November '04 and April '06, I sent out 200 resumes, had dozens of interviews and did NOT find another job. I came close several times but nothing worked out (which is why I quit and started my own business). SO... during this time I had to keep my boss from completely ruining my reputation (which had, prior to this disintigration, been damn near pristine). I worked for a micromanaging bat-$#@%-crazy boss who was out to tear me down at whatever cost. In order to defend myself, I put EVERYTHING in emails. When I left, I pdf'd many of them as reference (I write this blog, articles and books now from the experience) - they number in the thousands. I deleted the ones I knew I wouldn't need -- and those also numbered in the thousands.

Email should be used as a CYA tool when there is nothing else available as documentation UNTIL the individual can get the hell outta Dodge!
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