Sony Email Hack Reminds Us of the Number One Rule Regarding Emails…

no emailDon’t ever put anything in writing you wouldn’t be comfortable seeing on the cover of The Wall Street Journal. Seriously. And in the case of the Sony email hacks, this couldn’t be more spot on.

It seems like as each day passes, there’s yet another damaging headline ripped from email exchanges between Sony execs whether it’s about President Obama, Angelina Jolie or Leonardo DiCaprio. With each new development there’s a blatant reminder about the rules of email.

Sure, you may not be a top executive at a major studio but regardless of your level, regardless of your company, regardless of everything, you matter. Your words matter — spoken, written, all of the above.

And we know you already know this but the Sony incident is an excellent example of a reminder to this point. According to The Hollywood Reporter, an all hands meeting is scheduled today at Sony to discuss the matter out in the open, internally.

Don’t ever put anything in writing that is questionable, that you would be mortified by seeing it on the front page of a newspaper, that you wouldn’t want your mother to know about.

On another level, it seems that simple conversations in cubicles have disappeared. Yes, to one extreme you should never put anything questionable in an email if you’re about to disparage someone’s character or say anything that wouldn’t put you or someone else in the best light but on another level, even if it’s something as innocent as discussing budgets for the next year or head count, why not have an actual conversation?

If you’ve ever noticed an email exchange with 10 or more messages flying back and forth, maybe that’s a sign to pick up the phone or march to the person’s office to nip the conversation in the bud. Sometimes a five-minute conversation is all you need instead of getting sucked into the email vortex that never ends.

Plus, there’s an intonation and sense of body language (or lack thereof) when relying only on digital messages. A friendly smile, a nod — again, we know you know this but they’re absent in emails.

Leverage conversations, especially difficult ones, to build bridges within your relationships instead of scathing emails (or even innocent misinterpreted ones) which can burn them.