Flowers, E-Mail and Valentine's Day

Article excerpt

Beware the Valentine e-mail.

That is the red flag message being sent to employers from Nancy Flynn, executive director of The ePolicy Institute in Columbus, Ohio.

Flynn has advice on how employers can prevent Valentine's Day cyberlove disasters and protect employees from actions that can savage careers. She recommends using written e-policies to prohibit employees from sending romantic e-mail and downloading pornographic Internet images. Flynn is the author of The ePolicy Handbook, published in January.

"Written e-policies help employers control content, behavior, and eliabilities," said Flynn, who speaks in the popular new elanguage. "For responsible organizations operating in the age of electronic communication, an e-policy is indispensable."

"With 130 million U.S. workers sending 2.8 billion e-mails daily, the likelihood of employees sending inappropriate e-Valentines is huge," she said.

But for those in the workplace who still cannot resist sending cyberlove notes, she offers a few tips.

* Beware hidden readers.

A cupid's arrow sent through cyberspace may be the quickest way to express love, but it's hardly the safest. An inaccurate keystroke or your beloved's decision to forward your message could take a private relationship public.

* Write as though mom were reading.

Many people treat e-mail too casually, writing messages they'd never put on paper. Don't write anything you wouldn't say aloud to colleagues, customers, and competitors.

* Compose yourself before composing your e-mail.

No matter how great your passion, think before you write. Once you push send, your e-mail is on its way through cyberspace and probably can't be retrieved.

* Keep the end in sight.

No matter how much you love and trust your partner, consider the consequences of private notes becoming public. Don't write anything that could one day come back to haunt you.

* Protect your reputation and career. Adhere to your organization's policies or risk disciplinary action and termination.

Flynn says 27 percent of Fortune 500 companies have battled sexual harassment claims stemming from employee misuse and abuse of corporate e-mail and Internet systems.

Employers eager to limit liabilities should implement written policies that clearly spell out what is -- and is not -- allowed to be communicated via the organization's e-mail and Internet systems, she said.

In addition, employers should use written policies to give employees explicit notice that they do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, she said. Employers should notify employees in writing that the organization has the right to monitor anything that is transmitted or stored on its e-mail and Internet systems, and that management intends to exercise that right.

Red is changing

Red is the color most associated with Valentine's Day, but red is changing.

"This year's red is more intense than previous years and has a very warm feel," says Jennifer Shoff, a designer for the Valentine's Day line at American Greetings. …