Even if you are not a basketball fan, you are likely aware that Magic Johnson abruptly resigned his position as president of basketball operations with the L.A. Lakers. Recent news reports indicate Magic resigned because he was inadvertently copied on emails critical of his execution of his duties. There is a very strong lesson here for all businesses.
Your business should create and maintain strong email policies. Included within these policies should be direction as to who receives copies of emails (whether directly or through bcc). Those policies should also describe how, if at all, to respond to emails in which an employee is bcc’d. Without direction, some will automatically hit “reply all” in responding to an email. If that individual had been bcc’d, then that reply probably should not be received by all of the addressees on the original email. In the absence of email policies, a business can unintentionally share confidential information or, as in the case of the Lakers, include the target of discussions within the emails.
Your email policy should be included within a broader document retention policy. I have previously discussed document retention policies in this blog (please see here). Emails, and other electronic documents, should be handled carefully. This is true in ordinary business operations as well as if your business becomes party to a lawsuit. If there is a lawsuit, certain documents may be the subject of a discovery inquiry. If you do not have, and enforce, a document retention policy, you will experience greater challenges in responding to such discovery requests.
We all know that words matter. Even more than that, written words matter, can hurt your business, and can last forever. In this context, properly written and executed policies can be Magic.