Your email address is an extension of your business — especially if you are the business owner. This is why most companies have an email policy discouraging employees from using email for anything that’s not business related. They’re trying to avoid having their business linked to anything that might make them look bad.
It’s always a good idea to be careful about how you use your business email account and what gets associated with it.
I came across an extreme case of this over ten years ago when I worked for a “dot com.” I received a piece of “constructive feedback” email from someone that was extremely harsh and included both expletives and racial slurs. The author tried to hide his email address but didn’t realize his mail program attached a signature file with all of his contact information. From this file, I learned that this person owned and operated a small business.
Without getting into the details, I replied to the email with the same advice I’m providing here. He apologized and claimed his son was the one that sent the email. I wonder if others received similar messages and if so, if they believed his story.
Again, this is an extreme case, and most of us aren’t guilty of this type of behavior. But how about blond jokes, lawyer jokes, Bush jokes, Obama jokes, etc…? How about forwarding those pictures of one of the Kardashian sisters in various states of undress or the top ten ways to gross out the person in the bathroom stall next to you?
The funnier or the more shocking the message, the more it will get forwarded to others. Over the last fifteen years, I’ve received thousands of these types of messages that have also included the originator’s contact information. Imagine having your business tied to a message that could be considered offensive and sent to hundreds of people?
I’m not telling you to not have a sense of humor or that these types of emails are wrong. That’s your choice and your decision. What I am telling you is that if your email address is tied to your professional life, you may want to reconsider what you do with that particular account. Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo! and several other services offer free email accounts. If you tend send out a lot of “questionable” material using your business account, you may want to consider registering for one of these accounts. The last thing you want is for a potential client to get their first impression of you at the bottom of an email they find offensive.