Not a day goes by that I do not receive an email communication from a director or a manager which requires a response and which has multiple addressees attached. Who all these people are is usually anybody's guess.
In the business world, we often preach the benefits of "closed end" communications-you send email only to those who need to be included on that particular topic. Knowing to whom you are communicating helps avoid a lot of problems down the road. The same holds true for association communications and yet far too many directors and even some managers will include people on an email query whom they would not want included in a response.
Most association directors and managers do the lion's share of their work via email. That is just a fact of life these days and certainly is a topic for another blog as to whether or not these electronic communications are unfairly squeezing out the communication that needs to take place in front of the membership.
Directors and managers need to be aware of the following when sending and receiving email communications:
- Emails sent from or received by an email address set up for association-related communications become part of the official records and subject to inspection by the membership unless the content is otherwise privileged.
- When adding multiple people into an email communication, there should be an identification of those people and the reason they are included on the email. For example, if you are asking your attorney for an opinion on a parking matter, you may want to advise your attorney that you've included Bob and Mary, your fellow board members, Joe the manager and Mrs. Smith who has requested the accommodation to move to another spot.
- Remember if you include a non-board member like Mrs. Smith on your email communication, you have jeopardized your attorney-client privilege.
- Auto complete can be a very dangerous thing, particularly if you are sending email communications on sensitive topics. You may think you have sent your email to Joe Warren when in fact you have sent it to John Walsh. Again, auto complete can result in the destruction of attorney-client privilege as well as just being a source of embarrassment should a communication wind up in the wrong inbox.
- Ask yourself why you are adding ten people on an email communication. Will doing so help achieve your board's objective or is it being done to either grandstand or as a "cover your tracks" tactic?
- Know that most people who receive an email with many listed recipients will automatically hit "Reply All" to that message. If having the reply go to everyone was not your intention, then you need to either state in the email to whom the response should be sent or resist the urge to send open-ended email communications in the first place.
- Naturally, blind copying people on your email communications usually results in hurt feelings or worse.
So what do I do now when I receive emails with recipients listed with whom I am not familiar? I ask via return email to all to identify themselves prior to sending a substantive reply.