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Red faces and the dangers of sending emails


June 7, 2002

A new survey has suggested that mis-sent emails cause embarrassment more frequently than might be imagined, with one in three workers saying they've sent emails to the wrong recipient.

The survey, carried out by consumer data company Experian in conjunction with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), involving men and women at all levels across UK businesses, into the email habits of the nation. Among its other findings:

  • One in six bosses have fired or threatened an employee with disciplinary action because of inappropriate emails sent at work.
  • Sixty percent of employees surveyed admitted to reading personal emails while at work.
  • Sixty percent of employees admitted to sending emails to someone sitting next to them to ask a question.

Kate Keenan, business psychologist and author of Understanding Behaviour said that email behaviour can speak volumes about employees' attitudes. "Bosses should be aware of those employees who habitually prefer to use email when they could easily pick up the phone or see someone in person," she said in a statement. "The person may be hiding behind email to avoid possible confrontation or perhaps even rejection."

The survey arrives as the Labour government suffers from its second damaging email leak in recent months.

In the first instance Jo Moore, special adviser to ex-transport minister Stephen Byers, suggested that 11 September, 2001 was "a good day to bury bad news". Her comments were made in an email sent after the World Trade Center towers had been attacked, but before the towers collapsed. She later apologised and was defended by Byers but they both later resigned.

In the second embarassing episode for the Labour government, officials at the Department of Transport emailed Labour headquarters to investigate the backgrounds of the Paddington rail crash survivors in an attempt to "dig dirt", according to the Evening Standard.

Copyright © 2002 CNET Networks, Inc.


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