Keeping confidentiality is a key aspect of any business. Knowing what information and who to keep out of the loop requires careful consideration and mistakes have the potential to be catastrophic – on every level – relationally, professionally and commercially.

Have you ever inadvertently shared confidential information by email? Have you ever sent an email to the wrong person?

It was harder to make these mistakes in the days of letters and even faxes. These days with email, it is so easy to press that send button.
Below are two increasingly frequent problems with email. We would all be wise to avoid these pitfalls.

1. Failing to delete the tail

How often do you get sent an email with all the previous emails attached like a long tail on the bottom of the email? How often do you send these emails?

This was never a problem in the days of faxes and letters, each piece of correspondence stood alone unless you consciously made a decision to attach previous correspondence. The worst that happened was a fax inadvertently sent to the wrong number.

These days, we are quick to hit the “reply” button on our emails, without thinking about what is attached to the email we are replying to. Worse, we often hit “forward”.

The problem arises when, buried in the tail of the email you have just forwarded, there is a whole lot of confidential information you didn’t want the recipient to know. It may have been commercially sensitive information, it may have been personal comments, it may have been legal advice. Whatever it was, you are now faced with an exercise in damage control -if that’s possible.

The moral – never leave the tail on your emails without making a conscious decision to do so.

2. The reply all button

This can cause similar problems. We think we are replying to the sender of the email, but by hitting “reply all” without thinking, we find we have sent the email to a whole raft of people we didn’t intend.

Always check the list of recipients to your emails before you click “send”.

Apart from the potential risk , it is good practice to only “reply all” if it is essential that everyone on that list receives the email. We all receive enough essential emails each day without needing to trawl the inessential ones as well.

A failure to do either of the above in relation to each email you send is a disaster waiting to happen. It is only a matter of time.

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