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We’ve blogged in the past about the need for small businesses to think about cost-effective solutions to security, employee monitoring, and due diligence. So when a program comes along that could help you legally monitor (if implemented correctly) your and your employees’ emails with internal and external stakeholders, we want to pass this information along.
Entrepreneur Magazine recently published an article about ToneCheck, an email plug-in that flags emotionally charged and other inappropriate email. With a relatively good freeware version and a reasonably-priced full version for use in small to large enterprises, ToneCheck provides a line of defense against harassing and inappropriate emails. You know, those types of emails that may originate in a time of intense anger or passion, or when you're rushing to send off a rushed email.
If, for example, your employee wants to send a message, in jest, that reads "Ugh, you suck!" the "CYA" program comes to the rescue: a box pops up informing the sender that she or he "has exceeded the company’s tone tolerance." You can, of course, create various settings, and it does not stop an email; it only warns the sender. Such a program. however, can come in handy for a variety of reasons.
When used legally and strategically as part of your broader risk- and security-management, this program can help mitigate risk of lawsuit or lost business. For example, if you have this program installed on all of your computers, with employees' full awareness, they may actually appreciate this handy tool. Before an employee sends you that angry-toned email about how you're such a “bosshole” (admittedly, Entrepreneur Magazine said this one got through), the program will warn him or her that the message is “threatening.” In short, the employee will appreciate that this program saved their job.
Before an employee sends along a sexually-provocative joke throughout the office, “just to make people laugh,” the program will warn them of the risk. If she or he still proceeds, and your employee handbook specifically notes “that we do not tolerate the exchange of inappropriate emails (e.g., sexually explicit or racist in tone),” and you further specify that sending the email after warning by ToneCheck, the employee can face legitimate reprimand or termination. Also, you can show due diligence in court should a discrimination lawsuit be filed.
As a tool for yourself and your employees, y'all will be warned regarding the tone of an email to a potential or current customer. If you or your employee happens to be in a rush, the program will warn that the email can be interpreted as “threatening.” You don’t want to say “It has been annoying…, upsetting…, troubling…,”—which are all somewhat angry—when you really want to convey the following: “It has been concerning me for some time that you have not been able to keep up on payments.” Yes, you may be annoyed or angry, but you don’t want to lose a good customer just because they interpreted your email as threatening.
Of course, a program is only as good as it is used and it can only be used with the appropriate type of monitoring. If you find that a particular employee has a tendency toward writing violent or threatening emails, especially if unconsciously, you may want to hire a private investigator to look into the person’s history or to conduct a thorough investigation. This program could just help you uncover an employee who is threatening sabotage or violence against you or your company’s interests.