An Email Expert's Take On Hillary Clinton's Email Scandal

Over the past 12 years, I have had the privilege of helping over 300 organizations in 50 countries, including 100 Fortune 500 companies, get control of their email. I help them with time management training, email efficiency, and most importantly -- compliance with enterprise email guidelines. My book, The Hamster Revolution: Manage Your Email Before It Manages You has been published in 12 languages.

So what is my take on the Hillary Clinton scandal? I think it's overblown. In organization after organization, I get to witness just how difficult it is to get leaders and colleagues to fully comply with email guidelines.

For example, despite most organizations having a clear policy that prohibits inappropriate language in email messages -- 43% of leaders reported that they have seen a vulgar email in the past month! In fact, that is often why our organization is asked to provide training -- to help with email etiquette and compliance.

Both Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton are being scrutinized for how they used different devices to conduct their personal and professional communications. The vast majority of Clinton's messages were correctly categorized but a few -- perhaps one in a thousand -- were not. In my experience, this is not isolated but probably would apply to the vast majority of professionals. In fact, many of the leaders I have interviewed actually led their companies to adopt different mobile devices like iPads because it helped them gain more rapid access to email. They pushed policy boundaries so that they could do their job more effectively. Not the worst crime in the world.

In trying to separate personal and professional messages, I can see how Hillary Clinton struggled. The vast majority of employees now have a single smartphone that is used for both professional and personal messages. It's convenient, but tricky as you are doing business one second and flirting with your spouse the next. I'm actually kind of impressed that no bombshell personal revelation emerged from the release of tens of thousands of messages.

But how do top-notch organizations fare with regards to email compliance and categorization? Not well. A prospective client at a Fortune 500 company recently told me that less than 15% of their 75,000 employees were using the proper procedure for categorizing important email and documents. Our discussion led to the realization that they had boring, ineffective records management training in only one language. A recipe for failure.

If your argument is that leaders should know all the guidelines and practice them each day -- that sounds great but do you know all the email guidelines in your organization? Be honest! In most cases, there are hundreds of rules that are documented in some obscure link on a distant and long forgotten internal web page.

Look! HRC made a mistake with her email but an exhaustive FBI investigation revealed no criminal action. I see the security issues but wonder if this really merits the time it's being given in the media. Having surveyed over 50,00 professionals -- I can put it in this context: In a 30+ year career of public service, if this is her biggest mistake, as an email expert, I think it's being way overblown.

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