Something I learned long ago is that your email at work can be read by more people than you think. But unfortunately too many people think of it as their private email — and they say things that they probably would prefer not to be made known to management. Or to their nosy coworkers.
For many people, their work email becomes their “go to” email, since it’s handy to have things all in one place. Plus it’s easy to forget that your email at work does not belong to you — even if it has your name on it.
Your company email belongs to THEM
Email is a communication convenience that most companies provide so they can do business. And so you can get business-related messages from the company, coworkers, and clients. It’s expected that you may also receive and send some personal things while at work, unless company policy specifically forbids it.
But the company tech team probably created and is maintaining that email service. And they often have access to everything you write, should the urge strike them. If the company owns it, they can monitor it if they so choose.
Now most tech teams are too busy to sit around reading your communications. But if there is a reason to review them, they can. And a friend of mine found that out.
My friend’s email at work story
My friend was a Vice President at a major bank. He was pretty much used to getting his way about things and having his particular non-traditional banker behaviors overlooked.
Unfortunately for him, one thing that didn’t get overlooked was the affair he was having with a woman in another department. While the bank gave him a lot of leeway as far as policy goes, that was not something they would accept.
And as smart as my friend is in most ways, he didn’t think about the email trail — some of it sizzling — their romance left as evidence. Guessing the communications tech staff enjoyed gathering (and perhaps sharing) evidence.
Sadly for the woman, because she didn’t have as much upper management support as he did, she was told to find another job. And my friend, though warned privately, was allowed to stay. (This is a not an uncommon outcome for women in business under similar circumstances.)
So how to handle email at work?
As a basic rule, make sure you have your own private email account outside of work and use that for non-business communication. Even if it takes a bit more effort to log into the other email, it’s a smart thing to do.
And, if this is something you don’t want read or shouldn’t be doing at work, best to do your private email away from the office on non-office equipment!
CAUTION: Using office equipment may give the employer access to your messages, even if you are using your private email account. I’m not a lawyer, but I believe state law may affect an employer’s right to observe / access private accounts. For more about the legal aspects: Can an employer read my personal account email?
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