Email abuse: employees just cant help themselves

The fate of government press officer Jo Moore, who was (eventually) fired for suggesting in an email that 11 September 2001 was “a good day to bury bad news”, has done little to make employees – IT workers in particular – more cautious about the content of the emails they send at work.

According to a survey by research company NOP, 69% of IT staff would readily open an email they believed to be inappropriate. More worryingly, 42% say they would be likely to then circulate the email to their colleagues and friends.

Employees in the legal and accounting professions are the most cautious, with around 50% in both cases saying they would delete an inappropriate email immediately. Retail workers tend to be more sneaky – 38% say they would send the email to their home or personal email address before they opened it. Junior members of staff are the most likely to abuse email across all industry sectors, according to NOP.

Despite these figures, email gaffes such as Moore’s have made employees more wary of the content of messages in their email systems, says the report’s sponsors. Across all industries, most respondents agree that circulating inappropriate email could potentially damage their career or reputation.

Some staff have failed to heed these warnings, however. In July 2002, technology giant Hewlett-Packard sacked two members of its UK staff and suspended 150 others for alleged email abuse.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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