I have been teaching business writing for many years. But today is the first time I heard this suggestion from a workshop participant about staying out of trouble with email:
Suggestion: Do not print a confidential email unless you are within 5 feet of the printer and can grab the page as the machine spits it out. Otherwise, that confidential message can become common knowledge.
I have long been advising people not to fax confidential information. It’s one thing when faxing to people who receive the messages through their computer. But when a fax machine churns out pages in an open office space, anyone can pick them up. A consultant friend of mine learned this lesson the hard way when her fees became a topic of discussion throughout a client company after she faxed an invoice to her contact there.
So today’s valuable lesson is this: If you can’t stand by the printer and catch the emerging pages, don’t print a confidential email. And if your contact across town or across the world isn’t standing by the fax machine to dive for that confidential sheet, don’t fax it. It’s just not prudent.