Email Transparency, Pandora’s Box

If you have a corporate email address, you should read this post.

You currently may not realize, but IT and the management of the company have full rights and access to your email..right now. They can copy your entire inbox and see every message.

This probably doesn’t bother you too much because the reality is that they don’t look. So unless you got caught embezzling money, the likelihood is that no one will bother to look at your emails.

Ok, now let’s imagine you buy SalesforceIQ, DataHug or Engagio. These tools consolidate all of the email to and from target accounts. It’s as if the lights are suddenly turned on in the bar at 3am. It’s not pleasant what you may see. Some examples:

  • Criminal activity
  • Dick pics
  • Harassment
  • Disclosure of confidential information
  • Security/Password info
  • Inappropriate behavior/speech
  • Complaining about their boss
  • Soliciting a new job
  • Poorly worded or incorrect explanations
  • Poor brand/marketing alignment
  • Misspelled words/typos
  • Sent to wrong person
  • Never sent email

Notice how I got progressively less bad as the list went on. Still, this is a common list of sins. Some much worse than others.

Next, imagine you are a business owner and I told you that out of your 100% of employees, 5% of them are engaging in one or more of the above sins. In fact, at least one of them is engaged in criminal activity.

The million dollar question: Do you want the lights turned on?

Let’s break down the choice.

Yes, turn the lights on
First thing that happens is you admonish or fire the worst offenders. These people were well liked and otherwise productive. You have to hire a recruiting firm to replace them and lose time and money in the process. You may even lose a few people who they managed. Ripple effects.

Additionally, people start to get angry. They are mad that you are looking over their shoulder. They don’t feel trusted anymore. They start to complain about Big Brother. Culturally, something is lost.

Then things start to get better. People are more conscious of their communications and are more thoughtful about it. They are more appropriate and inappropriate use of email drops significantly. People get used to the policy and bad feelings dissipate. Eventually, only the good parts will remain. People will use email for appropriate work purposes only. This option is clearly 1 step backwards for 2 steps forward.

No, leave the lights off
Well, you are living this reality right now. A few bad apples will continue abusing email and nothing will change. No steps backward or forward.


It’s not every day that software raises ethical questions like this. I am excited that change for the better is possible and that I can be an agent of change. However, I understand there is going to be alot of hard feelings and chaos when the lights go on. It ain’t pretty out there.

If I went back in time and told Hillary Clinton that all of her emails are going to made public during her run for President, I bet she might have made different choices.

In the meantime, please think about how every word you type is being stored in the cloud whether you like it or not. Maybe act like they are watching even if they aren’t.

Remember, your email address at work is not private! It’s owned by the company. Protect yourself and don’t be stupid.

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