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Part IV: Polishing Your Cybermanners > Netiquette Guidelines for Managers

Chapter 25. Netiquette Guidelines for Managers

Executives and managers should adhere to the same basic rules of netiquette as outlined in the preceding section. A handful of additional netiquette considerations apply also to those who supervise employees.

  1. Regularly remind employees that the organization has the right to monitor employee e-mail transmissions. Do not allow employees to assume they can expect privacy from the organization’s computer assets.

  2. Enforce the organization’s e-mail policy consistently. If, for example, the e-mail policy prohibits the downloading of attachments, adhere to that prohibition yourself. Do not allow yourself rights that other employees cannot enjoy equally.

    If the organization’s e-policy states that employees will be terminated for sending e-mail messages that violate the organization’s sexual harassment policy, managers must follow through by firing violators. The only way the organization’s e-mail policy will be effective at reducing liability risks is through consistent enforcement.

  3. Be realistic about the company’s personal-use policy. More than 70% of employers allow limited, approved personal e-mail use.[29] E-mail may be the only means for some employees to keep in touch with partners and immediate family during working hours. Working parents who are prohibited from communicating with family members via e-mail may decide to look for a more family-friendly employer.

    [29] American Management Association, 2001 Survey of Electronic Policies and Practices.

  4. Never use e-mail to fire employees or deliver bad news. Whether your objective is to terminate an employee or notify a department head of budgetary cutbacks, demonstrate respect for your employees by delivering bad news in person. A one-on-one meeting will give the employee the opportunity to ask questions and absorb the shock of bad news. And, should a wrongful termination lawsuit follow, personal notification will cast management in a better light than electronic notification would.

  5. Do not use e-mail to discuss an employee’s performance with others. As a manager, you are not required to like every employee personally. But you are obligated to treat each worker with professional courtesy. If you need to discuss an employee’s professional shortcomings with the human resources director or instruct a department head to terminate an employee who is not working out, do so in person and behind closed doors.

    E-mail is fraught with too many dangers for sensitive or confidential communication. You could strike your group-list key accidentally, sending negative comments about an employee’s work to everyone in the organization. You could type in the address of the employee in question, rather than the human resources director, and alert the employee (and the employee’s lawyer) to your feelings and comments.

    Worst case scenario: If the employee in question were to file a workplace lawsuit, alleging a hostile work environment or wrongful termination, your electronic discussion with the human resources director could come back to haunt the company as a whole. E-mail messages, like written performance reviews and other documents, can be subject to discovery and subpoena in litigation. In a trial, your e-mail messages about this employee could be used as evidence against the organization.

  6. Do not rely on e-mail to the exclusion of personal contact. To varying degrees, your employees, customers, and suppliers all crave human interaction. Although some people may be content to communicate electronically nearly 100% of the time, others may feel slighted or unappreciated unless you maintain ongoing personal contact. Even in the age of e-mail, relationship skills remain at the heart of long-term business success. Supplement your e-mail communication by holding regular meetings with your staff, customers, and important suppliers.

  7. Avoid e-mail if there is any chance your message will be misunderstood. If your message is complex, technical, or otherwise in any danger of being misinterpreted, opt for a telephone call or a personal meeting instead of e-mail.

  8. Do not rely solely one-mail to communicate e-mail policy to employees. Create a sense of policy ownership among employees by holding e-policy training sessions. Explain why the company has created the e-mail policy and what you and the rest of the management team expect from the staff. Create an environment in which employees feel free to ask questions about the organization’s electronic policy.



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