In the past, we have provided some guidance about how to manage supply chain and other business to business disputes.
2020-2021 has been the year of supply chain disruptions and customer disputes. Not all disputes lead to a courtroom – many of them are resolved. However, there are certain practices when it comes to sending internal emails that are worthwhile to consider. Some of these are obvious.
- A lot of times when we talk about email practices, we look at it defensively, i.e., if there is a dispute. Some of my partners call email “God’s gift to trial lawyers.” I think the point they are making is that email can be misconstrued because typically “tone” is read in and also because it often is written quickly. So, as an initial rule, I encourage people to apply the 24 hour rule if the email is dispute oriented at all. Sometimes you can’t wait to respond, but if you can, it is always better to send a placeholder email.
- Avoid sarcasm or jokes because again, it often is not delivered the right way.
- Mind your cc’s. Ccs are often used as a weapon and when dealing with a customer/supplier/vendor, it can look like you are taking someone to the “principal’s office.” Also, there may be a strategic reason to keep executive management out of it until the right time.
- For smaller companies, you should encourage people to relay significant concerns in person or over the phone. On the quality side, I know a lot of folks want to email the world, but oftentimes I have seen engineers, etc. speculate about issues and then change their minds. But, that initial email is there forever. So, make sure folks adequately investigate something before putting it in writing.
- When we train quality/sales, etc. we always tell people that emailing people is fine. Often, when you give people rules, they say they will never email anyone again. It is more about helping them identify the risks themselves as opposed to telling them what to do.