I have lots of readers. Thousands upon thousands. Do you know who doesn’t read my blog, however? Former DNC chair (and Congresswoman) Debbie Wasserman Schultz. How do I know? Because, if she does, she would have read this:
Do I really need to tell you not to ever put something like “do we really want an obese Christian” in an email. Some things are better left unsaid, or, more to the point, un-typed. And, for god’s sake, please read those emails (all of them) before you click send. It makes my job a whole lot easier defending you without that smoking gun.
Unlike diamonds, email messages aren’t forever, but they are pretty darn close. Employers need to train managers and supervisors to be vigilant in their care about what they reduce to writing in emails. Emails, especially those pertaining to the employment (or impending unemployment) of those in a protected class, must be vetted and re-vetted before being sent. Ask yourself this question: “Would I want this email read to a judge or a jury?” Unless the answer is an unequivocal “Yes”, do not send it.
Email is a powerful communication tool. It’s also very permanent. I’ve been saying this about social media for years, but perhaps it’s time to remind employers that communication is communication, no matter how it’s transmitted. If you don’t want something to appear on the front page of the newspaper, or to be read in front of a judge or jury, don’t put it in writing. Don’t email it, don’t text it, don’t Facebook it, and don’t tweet it.
Please, please, please, please, please … email should not be your default communication tool. It leaves a trail, and you cannot assume that trail is ever private. Just ask Debbie Wasserman Schultz. If anything you are writing gives you any pause at all as to whether it should be in writing, pick up the telephone, or meet for a cup of coffee. You’d think as ubiquitous as email has become we would all know this lesson by now. Debbie Wasserman Schultz reminds us that this is a lesson worth repeating.
Jon Hyman is a partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Hyman’s blog at Workforce.com/PracticalEmployer.