E-Mail Can Get You Fired . . . Choose WiselyBy Josh Troesh
Getting fired is now easier than ever.
A trend has been slowly developing around the country regarding business policies in the use of the Internet and e-mail at work. Businesses have begun to develop a 'zero' tolerance standing on web sites or e-mail that are inappropriate or unrelated to business use. The recent firing of New York Times reporters for 'sending inappropriate e-mail' is a high-profile example of this business issue.
Businesses have a right to demand that their employees use the Internet (which the business is paying for) for business related issues. Likewise, business owners live in constant fear of lawsuits brought on by employees, customers or activist groups, for having 'distributed' offensive material, a paranoia re-affirmed with daily reports from the news media.
But contemporary social mores also state that employees have a right to engage in moderate, non-offensive leisure time without worrying about a draconian policy hanging over their shoulder. Additionally, in a tight job market, can an employer afford to subject highly motivated and talented individuals to policies that imply a lack of trust in employees? Balancing these issues presents a tight-rope that employers have found difficult to walk.
Employers need to develop a defined set of guidelines for what is acceptable and what is not in the work place, guidelines that are set up to give general guidance and procedures as to how issues are to be resolved with regards to inappropriate Internet usage. This type of system will not only show employees what is and isn't acceptable at your business, but it will also add a layer of insulation from lawsuits, as your company shows that it explicitly states what it considers to be inappropriate behavior.
This type of policy will also help in firing employees for inappropriate usage of the Internet. Without a stated policy, employees have a strong case for wrongful termination, as what you consider to be fair "assumed" guidelines and procedures may not be considered that way by a court of law or the 'general public.' The policy should not, however, have a list of approved sites, correspondence, or e-mail newsletters for employees. This type of policy will most likely be received as heavy handed and unfair and will restrict your employees in their ability to do their jobs effectively by utilizing the constantly changing and growing resources available on the internet.
Employees should also take responsibility for their actions and use good judgment when using the Internet, especially with e-mail. E-mails should be considered as a formal correspondence between your organization and the outside world.
Josh Troesh is a freelance writer and internet business development consultant based in Southern California. You can reach him by writing email@example.com.
Article provided courtesy of MediaPeak.
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