Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be if all your emails were the subject of media scrutiny?
Well that’s what’s happened to Syrian president Bashar Assad and his wife this week as three thousand emails purported to be from their accounts were leaked to UK paper The Guardian.
Such things as taking advice from the Iranian ambassador, intentionally targeting foreign media delegates and Mrs Assad’s appetite for fine Parisian jewels were all communicated through the emails, now public.
The emails document a time during which the Syrian president has pushed the country to the brink of civil war, causing the deaths of 8,000 of his own people in the conflict started a year ago this week.
Apart from showing indifference to the suffering of the people that elected him, the emails also provide some important lessons for every employee on email.
Assad’s internet error has highlighted the importance of keeping work emails separate from your personal life, not writing down things you shouldn’t have done, and the value of internet security.
You never know who might read your emails.
Assad’s emails have now been read by his employees, the people who elected him. They show Assad sending love songs to his wife on the same day he ordered a brutal assault on the city of Homs. That’s not a good look.
It might be a boss who has the right to peruse your email accounts, or personal emails falling into the wrong hands, either way it’s a perilous business mixing work with social emails. As in Assad’s case it can show disrespect and indifference towards your work, especially in tough times.
Whether an employee or the boss, emails reflect attitude towards work and as such should be kept professional at all times.
Get some work done.
As many Syrians suffered food shortages living in war zones, Mrs Assad’s email correspondence places her ordering £10,000 worth of candlesticks, tables and chandeliers from Paris. Whether she’s there to help her people or suppress them, this is hardly pulling her weight.
Shopping, socialising and generally running your personal life are for your time, not the regime's. Leaving a trail of emails documenting your procrastination is a quick way to get sprung and get very little done. And unless you have an entire police force to protect you, a quick dismissal might be the end result for you.
The simple solution is to not do it. Not only will you avoid an awkward confrontation but there’s a chance you’ll actually get some work done too.
Don’t document things you shouldn’t have done.
Ahead of his speech in December, Assad’s emails reveal it was written largely based on consultations with media sources and a political adviser for the Iranian ambassador. They were advising him to use “powerful and violent” language and “leak more information related to our military capability”.
Political maneuvering with the media and consulting a country with a nuclear kitchen the world wants closed down is hardly information you want public.
Dealings and advice that you shouldn’t have made should not be documented in writing. They can only come back to bite you. Talking here and there is just talk, but once written down becomes irrefutable evidence.
Whether it’s complaining about Mandy eating all the biscuits or taking advice from a nuclear armed country, don’t put it down on paper.
Get some decent IT security.
There’s a good chance you wouldn’t be reading this article if Mr and Mrs Assad had changed their passwords regularly and shelled out on a decent IT security system.
Companies and individuals are being subject to more frequent and devastating cyber attacks than ever. Every business is now electronically handled at some point and subject to the loss of sensitive information if the right security is not in place.
The importance of having a decent IT security system is paramount. Not having one is inexcusable.
Just consider for a moment the ramifications of all your emails being read by the people who know you. If it’s not pretty then learn from Assad’s mistakes and clean up your online act.
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