Kelson emphasized to the audience of glaziers and suppliers the importance of watching what you say, and thinking before you speak. E-mail has shifted the way business is done, and the easy and often informal nature of e-mails can be dangerous for companies.
“Earlier in my career, my construction cases would have 100 exhibits. People would write one letter a week, if it was important. Today, I see 1,500 exhibits because of e-mails,” Kelson said. “E-mails are speaking without thinking. E-mails are too friendly to people who are not friends. E-mails are filled with bravado. … E-mails are coming from people who don’t have authority to speak for a company, and they are sent off without anyone reviewing them.”
Technology has made it possible for council to discover e-mails that were written but never sent. Mirror drives and back-up servers can house anything that has been drafted on the computer, even it if was never saved.
“I used to tell people to follow the 24-hour rule—to sit on an e-mail for 24 hours before sending,” Kelson said. “That rule won’t protect you now. Before you type an e-mail, write it out on paper, by hand.”
Kelson added that people should never send e-mails when “you’re overtired, emotional or upset.” Any e-mail sent after midnight can wait until the morning. “Don’t make a case for the other side by e-mailing after midnight,” he said.
The reply all, copy and blind copy functions in e-mail can lead to “devastating” unintended consequences if an e-mail is inadvertently sent to the wrong parties. “E-mails can end up in the wrong hands. … Always check and consider recipients before sending,” Kelson said. He also emphasized that no one should ever be copied on an e-mail to council. “This waives privilege.”
To prevent e-mail problems, and add legal protection, Kelson said managers need to train staff on writing e-mails. "If you can't train your staff to write e-mails the right way, then get a new staff."
--By Katy Devlin, associate editor