Avoid email liability as one of the risks to your tribal entity
Due to our litigation-focused in American culture, we’re focusing today on how you can avoid email liability in your tribe or tribal enterprise. Society continues to rely upon emailing, texting and instant messaging, especially now when in-person interaction is so limited. Granted, good manners may not be top of mind when thinking about risk management. But a dash of etiquette can go a long way in helping avoid time-consuming miscommunications, interpersonal disputes between staff and clients and mitigating any lawsuits your organization becomes involved in. Read on for some tips to avoid email liability.
Think before you speak…or write
In a lawsuit involving a tribe or tribal enterprise, it’s likely that both internal and external communications may be called upon to be reviewed by litigators. What is, or isn’t, in your written correspondence can either prove a hindrance or help to your case. In such a case, professional, polished communications are more favorable than casual, slapdash conversations.
One of the best tips to avoid email liability is to always treat every written communication you send as though it will be read by others. Never assume that anything you write is private, confidential or protected. In doing so, there’s a good chance that you’ll never write anything you may regret later. If you’d hesitate to share anything you’ve written with anyone other than the intended recipient, you may want to rethink your message, either in presentation, content or both. Begin a habit of asking yourself the following questions before hitting “send”:
- Would I feel embarrassed or uncomfortable if this message were made public?
- How would I react if I accidentally hit “reply all” or sent this message to an unintended recipient?
- What would a total stranger think of my character if all they had was this message to go by?
These are powerful questions to both evaluate the current levels of email professionalism in your tribe or tribal enterprise, and to shape your efforts in this area going forward.
Do’s and Don’ts – Tips to Avoid Email Liability
If the pen is mightier than the sword, make sure that you don’t accidentally turn it into a double-edged one. Share the following best practices regarding etiquette in business correspondence to your team to help limit liability in this area.
Use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but sticking with formal writing conventions, even in casual conversations, can go a long way towards improving your organization’s credibility in any circumstances. The phrase: “i sent the report pls respond ASAP!!!! Thx” inspires a lot less confidence than “Please review the attached report at your earliest convenience. Thank you!”
Refrain from obscenity.
Again, this may seem like a no-brainer. But foul language is a definite no-no in professional correspondence. Again, think back to the checklist questions – would I be embarrassed of the content of this message if it were made public? It is always better to err on the side of being more formal.
A great deal of human communication occurs through nonverbal cues, such as body language, tone of voice, facial expression, and so on. Since written messages can lack this kind of depth, sarcasm is very difficult to convey accurately. It’s far safer to avoid it altogether, along with anything else that might easily be misconstrued.
Proofread before sending.
If this sounds like it would only slow you down, that’s actually the point. Email, text and instant messages all transmit the written word faster than ever before in history…and that’s not always a good thing. For one, it can lead to sloppy typographical errors that can damage your credibility. For another, the speed and ease at which they are sent and received makes it far easier to send emotionally charged, poorly constructed or confusing messages that can actually cost you time and effort in the long run. Taking a moment to proofread your messages at least once before sending gives you more time to really consider your intent, tone and audience, as well as possible revisions.
Keep it short and simple.
As technology gets faster, attention spans grow shorter. Beyond that, it is often true in writing that less is more. Wordy messages can be time-consuming to wade through and difficult to follow. Keep messages short, concise, and clear. By contrast, don’t use too few words – you might come off sounding curt or impatient when you don’t mean to. Again, a quick proofread is often all that is needed to detect where you’re rambling and where you may need more detail.
Do I want this in writing?
Sometimes a message simply isn’t well suited to email, text or instant message. The matter may be convoluted, emotionally charged, sensitive or confidential in nature. In such cases, it might be better to pick up the phone or host a video call instead.
“Be careful what you put in writing” is a universal truism. The best way to do this is to always approach written messages with as much professionalism as possible. Setting these expectations for written correspondence at your tribe or tribal enterprise is a great first step in avoiding email liability.