Email can be a wonderful communication device, but it can also damage your career if used irresponsibly.

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In late 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment became the victim of a cyberattack and sensitive information was leaked to the public, including internal company emails. While this situation highlighted the issue of cybersecurity, it also provides a good warning for all employees on the use of email in business.

Here are five lessons every employee should understand when it comes to using company email:

Assume no expectation of privacy. Emails you send using your employer’s email system are generally considered to be company property. Be aware that your employer could (potentially) read every email you send.

Don’t assume your employer’s email system is secure. Employees at Sony Pictures thought that no one except the intended recipient would ever see their emails. Unfortunately, that was an incorrect assumption, and the insensitive and inappropriate content of some of the leaked emails wreaked all kinds of havoc. To be on the safe side, assume your work emails are not secure and that the system could be hacked.

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Be a role model of professionalism in every email. Think before you send anything via email and consider the repercussions that could occur if the email you’re about to send gets published for anyone in the world to read. Strive to make every email you write a representation of your high level of professionalism, character and integrity.

Avoid email for sensitive communications. Some topics are better discussed in person or over the telephone, especially if the topic is of a sensitive nature. While it’s OK to send business-related emails, it’s NOT OK to use email to gossip, badmouth others or share your personal opinions — especially if they’re negative. And avoid any comments that could legally compromise you or your employer.

Consider a conversation instead of email. Over 108.7 billion business emails were sent and received every day during 2014, according to research by The Radicati Group, Inc. That’s an average of 121 daily emails for business users. You might think a live discussion will take longer than sending an email, but for many topics, a quick telephone call or walking over to chat with a co-worker will take less time and help avoid multiple back-and-forth emails.

Bottom Line: Email is a tool used by almost every business and employee in the world. It can be a wonderful communication device, but use it responsibly and respectfully so you won’t inadvertently damage your career.

Lisa Quast is the founder of Career Woman, Inc., and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at