“How many of you have an email address for you your personal emails which is separate from your business email address?,” I asked a group I was giving a speech to recently.
I asked the question because earlier this month the Superintendent of Schools in Des Moines, Iowa, got canned for using her office computer to send personal, private emails. The initial reason stated by the school board for her firing was she had signed a contract that specifically forbids using her school system computer for personal reasons. Yet, she went ahead and did it.
She compounded her initial mistake by sending emails to her lover that were sexually explicit. It turns out the contract also prohibits sending sexually explicit emails.
Strike two and in this case she was out. Unfortunately for her, not only is she out of her job as the Des Moines superintendent, she also had to give up a new job she had just accepted as the Omaha, Nebraska, schools superintendent. All this for failing to heed the most important rule of email, especially email sent on your business email account: if you can’t put it on a bulletin board for anyone to see, then don’t put it in an email.
In a USA Today online article she summed up her mistake: “I tell my staff that they should treat any e-mails as a public communication. I don’t know why I didn’t do the same.”
Sure it’s convenient, but you may be in violation of an employment agreement or policy, and even if you’re not in violation, your emails on your business computer are subject to inspection by your company.
How would you answer the question I asked my group? Do you have a separate email address for your private, personal emails or do you get all your emails at your business email address? (Click here to take our poll.)
The author is solely responsible for the content.
About the author
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."