As if offices weren’t already rife with potential for awkward mishaps, electronic blunders are fast becoming part of a new workplace reality as a generation reared on instant communication adjusts to the “real world.” It can be tough to remember that at most major companies, every email, IM and even Google search could be monitored and recorded. Each day we leave behind an electronic trail of activity that we don’t always want our bosses to follow.
It can be difficult to abandon the mind-frame that email is a private form of communication, but one compliance officer at a top New York financial firm emphasized, “If you wouldn’t want your mother to read your email on the cover of the Wall Street Journal, don’t send it.” He added that because employees do not own their electronic communication when it is on company computers, it can legally be reprinted and publicized, and has led to sexual harassment charges. To avoid mishaps, Daphne Muller, a recent UNC grad working at a prominent New York City law firm, recommends keeping a separate email account for personal communication. There is no need to let your boss in on plans for “Friday drinks!”
Email etiquette is not only limited to appropriate content—upon entering the workforce you’ll need to face the fact that the days of “ttyl” and “luv ya” are over. But don’t overcompensate either: in a pressurized office environment where time is sensitive, resist the temptation to show off the extensive vocab you built up as an undergrad English major. Check your spelling, use proper punctuation and write with clarity and good judgment. Keep emails short and to the point, and don’t extend the chain longer than necessary. Your emails are a reflection of your professionalism, and if your boss is going to be reading them, you should sound intelligent.
If you simply have to IM your hot-and-heavy love interest on the third floor, remember to keep it G-rated… and to use your Gmail account.