The risks of immediate e-communication

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“Hi honey, you had me at hot tub.”

In this world of instant communication and constant connectivity, you need to be careful.

Ever had that feeling of “Oops, to whom did I just send that?”

Then, with your heart racing, you go to your sent e-mail and you have one of two reactions: “Whew,” as your heart resumes a normal rhythm, “that went to only the person I intended it for.” Or, “Uh-oh,” as your stomach churns and your palms turn clammy, “that went to everyone, and boy am I in hot water.”

Let me tell you a story about Max — not his real name — who, when asked about his boss, replied that “he is a Napoleonic $#*%$*.”

Well, this person replied “all” and it went out to high level people in a large organization. Max was able to call the IT department and was able to get the e-mail cleared before harm was done.

And don’t trust spell check.

“Thanks for your time yesterday, I know you are very busty.”  While it could be taken as a compliment, it no doubt was a typographical error. Spell check won’t catch what you really mean. This actually happened.

Be careful with wireless.

In the early days of wireless Internet — like last year — a guy composed a particularly strafing e-mail about a department he was not happy with because of the slow progress of a project. He did not plan to send the e-mail but wanted to get his thoughts down and later, soften the message.

Well, he put in the wireless card, forgetting the e-mail was sitting in the outbox. All of a sudden the laptop had connectivity and away went an e-mail that still needed much editing.

Yes, that dummy was me.

The problem with listserves and this almost-mass communication type of service is that there are people who feel their message is important when it is not. Be smart, think about it; who needs the answer to a question and who doesn’t care what you think?

Also, remember there might be lurkers somewhere on that listserve. You don’t know who will be reading your response. That could be why people want to send a note back to everyone on the list, they think someone will see how quickly they responded and make a point that they are on top of every task.

Oh, and the little red flag, sent with high importance. Maybe you think your message is of high importance, but thank you very much, I will make that decision.

Overused red flags water down what should be a benefit to alert me when something is really important.

The auto-fill function of e-mail can make things pretty easy … easy to get in trouble, if you aren’t careful.  There are a lot of Marks in my company. My boss is a Mark, his boss is a Mark, we have a CSBJ advertising rep named Mark and one of our printer’s names is Mark.

A document going to the wrong Mark could make my life difficult. If a staffer got something meant for my boss … you get the picture.

Then there is the silly, “CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: The information contained in this e-mail is confidential, may be legally privileged, and is intended only for the use of the party named above. If the reader of this e-mail is not the intended recipient, you are advised that any dissemination, distribution, or copying of this e-mail is strictly prohibited. If you have received this e-mail in error, please immediately notify me by telephone at (your number here) and destroy this e-mail.”

Well, maybe I will call you or maybe I won’t.  I have already read your confidential matter.  If it is really juicy, salacious stuff, I may take credit for it and include it in my memoirs.  If a tasteless joke, yeah, I will delete and call to let you know you have a bad sense of humor.

The first sentence in this column was a real e-mail to me from a prominent male community leader.  It went like this. “OK, you had me at ‘hot tub.’ Have a great weekend. I love you.”

And my response was, “Are you sure this was for me? Hot tub wasn’t in the plans … nor was love … (Name changed here to protect the guilty) I never knew …

I then received a threatening response that was tongue-in-cheek, or maybe it wasn’t. Hmmm … does anyone know where I can take a course in detecting electronic sarcasm?

Lon Matejczyk is publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at Lon.Matejczyk@csbj.com or 329-5202.