Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mob Week continues: why you should never put anything in writing

Last week AMC offered "Mob Week" during which they aired classic movies about my relatives who leave guns at murder scenes but never forget the cannoli. It was cool to see some old classics in high-def, though once you cut the profanity out of Scarface it ends up with about 42 minutes of dialogue and doesn't make any sense.

Anyway, there's a running theme through Goodfellas: don't write anything down, don't talk to anyone on the phone, because you never know who might be listening. While it's impossible to do the latter in a newsroom, the former is a smart strategy to protect yourself.

I'm talking about communicating by email, which, when you're angry or frustrated, can be the electronic equivalent of road rage.

Example: you get a snide comment in an email from a co-worker or manager. The person doesn't have the guts to say it to your face, or simply wants to get you ticked off. So you fire back, with a lot more anger than if the person were standing in front of you. Then, sometime in the future, you are presented with those emailed comments that have come back to bite you from cyberspace. You can't deny them, because they're in writing. It's evidence that is as rock solid as if you'd said the words on videotape.

Lots of managers use this tactic, sending critical comments about your work in an effort to gather evidence against you. If you get the feeling they're trying to get rid of you, and you suddenly start getting negative feedback electronically, this is an attempt to get stuff from you in writing. Nothing says smoking gun like a nasty email you sent back to a manager.

Next time you get something negative in an email, respond by meeting with the person who sent it face to face. A manager may take notes (and so should you) about what is said, but it's not as damaging as something in writing.

Remember, the Internet, and anything you put on it, is forever. This also includes comments you make on social media.

So forget the written comments, and take the cannoli.


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