Don’t Do Dumb Documents

Don’t Do Dumb Documents

November 14, 2013

Here’s the scenario:  You’re frustrated with a colleague.  You send him an email sharing your point of view.  He responds with a nasty-gram of his own; you read it and your blood begins to boil.  You send back a zinger.  He shares it with everyone else in the office.  You’re mortified!  It was intended only for him.  Now others in the office are angry with you; their perception of you seems to have shifted.  It doesn’t seem fair.  Things really got out of hand.  You wonder how it happened.  Here’s the thing:  Don’t do dumb documents.

“Don’t Do Dumb Documents.”  That was the name of a document retention and elimination workshop that the Legal Department offered when I was with Sprint.  It was important, required information – I heard the session multiple times and came to genuinely appreciate the advice and guidance offered.  You can imagine what it was all about:  What to save, what not to save, what to write on, what disclosures to make, etc.  In particular though, the course facilitator always emphasized one essential point:  Never put something in writing that might ultimately come back to haunt you.

Let me repeat:  Never put something in writing that might ultimately come back to haunt you.  It is a really important thing to remember.  Here’s why:  Sure, there’s the issue that the information may be “discoverable” should a litigious situation arise, but, perhaps more importantly, there is a reputational concern to consider – you must assume that whatever you wrote will be shared far and wide.

So, when interacting with others – whether they are your colleagues, networking contacts, fellow volunteers, friends or family, if you don’t want anyone but the intended recipient to read something you wrote – if it could be embarrassing, hurtful, rude, etc., then don’t put it in writing!  It is that simple.

Note:  The Don’t Do Dumb Documents workshop, at least in the days when I was at Sprint, did not contemplate the advent of social media.  My guess is that if we were to sit in that class today, social media communications would be included as a key topic.  Refer to yesterday’s post with my cautionary tale about social media based communications.