Five ways to keep your work emails safe

Posted on 15 December 2014 by Lucy Gregory

Angelina Jolie is a ‘minimally talented spoiled brat’ with a ‘rampaging ego’. So said Sony Pictures boss and Hollywood bigwig Scott Rudin.

How do we know this? Sony’s systems were hacked. Along with latest films and celebrity gossip, hackers released hundreds of company documents, emails and slides. Including those of Mr Rudin. Conversations he thought were private are now plastered over the world’s press. Awkward!

You might think only VIPs are at risk, but sadly it’s not true. If you work for or with a big company, your emails could be collateral damage. And we don’t help ourselves either. Most email crises at work are self-inflicted.

So what can you do to keep your work emails safe and protect your reputation?

1. Set proper passwords on everything

Imagine this scenario: the office joker jumps on a colleague’s computer one evening and sends a spoof message to the team. He confesses in the morning and everyone has a good laugh.

Now imagine it’s your computer and the office joker has it in for you. Instead of a spoof to the team, the email slams your company and clients and is circulated to your whole contacts list. You only learn about it the next day when you’re pulled into the boss’s office. Unfortunately, you can’t prove your innocence and you’re fired.

Sounds far-fetched? It happened to a friend of mine a few years ago and destroyed his career.

So set decent passwords and lock the computer when away from your desk.

2. Check the recipient boxes – and check again

Is your email going to the right person? Are you sure?

There are plenty of reasons why you might type the wrong name: thinking about a different project, distracted by a phone call, autofill. Or maybe this email has the same recipient list as another with one or two exceptions.

Pay attention to your recipients. If you’re not 100% sure who should receive the email, ask a colleague.

3. Never forward a work email

I’ve heard so many stories of people forwarding an email without realising there’s a chain below. Or forwarding a chain without checking its content. The results can be catastrophic.

Instead of using the forward button, copy and paste any relevant content into a new email. It encourages you to check the content first and you retain complete control.

4. Avoid Bcc

Like most business interactions, email relationships depend on trust. Blind copying undermines that. More practically, your recipient might not realise they’ve been blind copied. This can cause all sorts of problems down the line.

If someone needs to see an email but you don’t want to copy them in, send it to them separately with a brief message, such as ‘For information only’.

5. Write with caution

Don’t write anything in an email you wouldn’t want seen by your boss or client, published in the press or read out in court. If every email you write passes this test, you should be fine. Alternatively, pick up the phone.