How E-mail Becomes Dangerous

There are three types of E-mail we send--and only one type we ought to.


There are three common categories of E-mail: “Convenient,” “Questionable,” and “Exhibit A.”

Convenient E-Mail appropriately matches the subject with the tone. This means it is not used to announce layoffs, propose marriage, or discuss any sensitive topic for which face-to-face communication or, at the very least, telephonic contact, is needed. Convenient E-Mail is great for setting up meetings or conveying reports.

It can also be a nifty way to catch up with friends, although if that is done too often, Convenient E-Mail can become…Questionable E-Mail.

Questionable E-Mail is any E-mail which causes the recipient to wonder, “Why did I get this?” Questionable E-Mail includes invitations to help grieving widows from the Ivory Coast transfer large sums of money to your personal bank account; announcements of products that can miraculously enlarge or reduce body parts; revelations of ways to obtain doctorates without any actual classroom time; and intimate notes from distant admirers who have formed a powerful attraction to you. Under the right circumstances, such as litigation, Questionable E-Mail can become…”Exhibit A” E-Mail.

“Exhibit A” E-Mail is the indiscreet and more than suggestive note that Clyde in the executive suite sent to Mary in the mail room two weeks before Mary visited Carl in the plaintiff attorney’s office. It is the lewd joke that so convulsed Gretchen that she wildly clicked and transmitted it to the entire Operations Team instead of just her old friend Tom. “Exhibit A” E-Mail puts a bounce in the step of many an attorney as well as a chill in the hearts of managers. It brings to mind an observation made years ago by the late, great Speaker of the House of Representatives Sam Rayburn: “The three most important words in the world are ‘Wait a minute.’”

May we heed that wisdom in all of our E-mails

Michael Wade writes, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.


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