Email Audits

Written by Gregg Ruais
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At a previous office job of mine, one of the senior directors had learned about an email that had been circulating among employees. It was one of those joke emails that people forward to their entire mailing lists. I cannot remember the exact content, but it did push the envelope a bit for office humor. At any rate, the senior director became incensed that people would take time away from work to read and then resend this type of email.

The Wrong Way to Conduct an Email Audit

He wanted to catch red-handed anyone who used their company email accounts to receive and distribute inappropriate messages. At the time, the company had no email monitoring capabilities beyond the IT department manually hacking into people's accounts one by one. So this senior director went out on a mission. He must have spent an hour or two walking from computer to computer, checking people's inboxes and sent items folders.

Word spread quickly of what he was doing, so everyone deleted their inappropriate emails and then emptied their deleted-items folders before he got around to their PCs. Of course, his email audit turned up completely negative aside from the first two employees he checked. He walked away happy with the results, truly believing that the vast majority of people were using their email strictly for business purposes.

His audit soon became a joke in and of itself. Knowing he wouldn't spend hours each week checking up on the content in people's email folders, everyone resumed sending jokes as usual shortly thereafter. Without an automated email monitoring program, or at least the ability to accurately analyze the types of messages being sent to and from work email addresses, upper management really has no idea what employees are doing with their email accounts. Executives and HR personnel who want to know what's going on at their offices can ask email management software companies for free trials to verify whether or not they have email security problems.

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