Monday, July 03, 2000

Consultants suggest written guidelines on computer abuse




By John Yaukey
Gannett News Service

        Do you know your employer's policy regarding e-mail and Internet use? Then you're part of a small minority.

        Most workers have an inkling of what's acceptable at work, but it's often the details that snag them.

        Take for instance the employee at a prominent telecom company who was reprimanded last year for sending his wife a “love e-mail.”

        Here's what workplace consul tants and labor lawyers recommend:

        • Get your company's policy about e-mail and Internet usage in writing. Some allow liberal personal use; others don't.

        • In the absence of a policy, and many companies have none, go to your immediate supervisor and seek guidance.

        • If all you get from your boss is a vague “use your own better judgment” answer, assume it's the same standard that governs phone usage. Most companies don't mind an occasional personal call to help you juggle your life better. Bosses understand this usually helps productivity. So an occasional personal e-mail probably won't raise any hackles as long as it's PG-rated.

        • In the event you receive an offensive e-mail, what should you do? Experts differ on this one. But generally, they say, if it's from someone outside the company, delete it. If the problem recurs, have the office systems person block all e-mail from that particular sender. If the message comes from someone within the company, delete it and let the sender know it was inappropriate. If the problem recurs, report it to your supervisor.

        • Remember the rule of thumb governing all e-mail: don't ever write one that you wouldn't mind reading on the front page of your local paper. E-mail can end up anywhere.

       



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