Avoid These Red Flag Terms In Office Email

Your company probably won't suffer global-scale collapse and be investigated by federal auditors. Still, if you want to avoid looking bad and leaving your boss or coworkers exposed, avoid writing the "red flag" terms found in a search of Lehman Brothers' email.

Bloomberg News points out that investigators looking into the momentous collapse of Lehman Brothers at the brink of the recent financial meltdown managed to cut their way through 34 million pages of reports and documents by narrowing their search to a few key phrases and words that they imagined would be used to describe bad dealings. Not surprisingly, they found that workers felt unnaturally free to describe just how badly the company was doing, and how wrong it could be, in office-to-office email.

We're not suggesting that hiding everything from superiors is the way to go. But if you have to break bad news, try avoiding the types of terms that make it easy for investigators — or, say, future supervisors — to dig up your worst moments, like this sampling from the Lehman list:

  • huge mistake
  • big mistake
  • dumb
  • can't believe
  • cannot believe
  • serious trouble
  • big trouble
  • unsalvageable
  • shocked
  • speechless

What's the dumbest, most revealing corporate email you've seen floating around? What words and phrases do you always avoid in your own email dealings?

`Stupid' Lehman E-Mails Didn't Stay `Just Between Us' [Bloomberg via Planet Money]


Comments

    "What’s the dumbest, most revealing corporate email you’ve seen floating around?"

    This (includes NSFW text, which is pretty ironic as all of it was sent to or from work e-mail addresses):

    http://file.wikileaks.org/file/plum-financial-services-emails-2009.txt

    Surely if you feel the need to use those terms a lot it's time to follow rule three of business: GTFO.
    http://3laws.wordpress.com/the-laws/

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