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‘Big Brother’ may be reading your inbox

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Ever wonder whether your boss is looking over your shoulder as you write e-mails? Your boss just might be. Forty-three percent of employers store and review employees’ e-mail messages, reports the American Management Association.

Here’s how to e-mail without worry:

Expect no privacy. Unless your organization says otherwise, assume it monitors your e-mail, instant messages and Internet usage. What to avoid? Offensive language, excessive personal use, violating company policy and breach of confidentiality. Thirty percent of the surveyed companies have fired workers for such abuse.

Tip: Before you hit send, run this test, advises Sharon Nelson, head of Sensei Enterprises, a computer forensics and data recovery company in Fairfax, Va.: Imagine your e-mail printed in a newspaper, imagine your mom reading it and imagine it plastered on a billboard. “If it passes these tests, then it’s fine,” Nelson says.

Don’t rely on Gmail.
Employers can still recover and read Internet-based e-mail, if it’s opened from a work-based computer.

“Delete” won’t cut it. Computer forensics firms can recover work e-mails that you deleted.

Avoid the “AutoComplete.”
This e-mail function, which predicts the e-mail address as you type, is responsible for one of the most frequent e-mail blunders—sending your message to the wrong party. Double-check that the recipient is correct, or try disabling your AutoComplete function.

Tread carefully with copyrighted material.
You wouldn’t photocopy a book and distribute it, would you? Same goes for electronic publications.

If your company has one paid subscription to an electronic publication, but you circulate the publication to 100 other employees, the publisher is losing revenue. If the newsletter publisher sued, your forwarded e-mails would be discoverable. Before forwarding articles, find out if your contract allows for printing rights.

— Adapted from “E-Mail at Work: Tips to Keep You Out of Trouble,” Heidi Glenn, National Public Radio.

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