messagegate.jpgEverybody likes having a good laugh at a silly mistake. But sometimes little flubs can be costly, especially when they're common practice. Because of its casual nature and ease of use, e-mail has come to play a major role in business relations and enterprise development. It's also an inadvertent medium for plenty of extra-office faux-pas between clients. That's why the e-mail governance software specialists at MessageGate did some R&D to hone their take on the top 10 e-mail blunders of the year.Here's the Top 10, and a bit of illustrative commentary. Sound familiar? Then maybe it's time to start tightening the reins on e-mail relations between your four walls: 10. Politics As Usual MessageGate cites the woeful tale of a Small Business Administration lawyer who gets canned after sending and mailing over 100 e-mails favouring California's Green Party through his government computer. The walls of the 'net have ears. It's messy business to play the conflict of interest game. 9. Portfolio Capers Here's a situation that happens plenty often across all tiers of an enterprise. Somebody saves sensitive company information on a convenient Gmail account for organizational purposes or just to keep a cache of work samples for future use. Now each individual server and each server's apps, IP addresses and other intimate company characteristics are floating around in Google's indexing coffers, waiting for just the right safe-cracker. 8. Neglecting to Address the Needs of Your Trusty Robots An admonition to pay attention to the e-mails nobody ever reads, which is precisely why they cause so much corporate anguish: your copy, fax or imaging machines may be sending automatic messages to alert somebody - anybody - about small maintenance issues. Mail servers and folders get loaded beyond capacity with largely ignored alerts about low toner or failed fax attempts. Inefficient much? Those e-mails get indexed too, making more work for those whose job it ultimately will be to sift through that information. 7. Comparing Credit Scores on Public Platforms Nice score. Shop much? One financial services enterprise learned its employees regularly disclose personal information while discussing credit reports directly with clients via unsecured e-mail in an effort to expedite the loan process. 6. Slapping New Friends in the Face Morgan Stanley put the axe down on two bankers and their former chief economist in Asia after discovering an e-mail correspondence that didn't reflect well on their Singaporean neighbors. Part of the offending conversation read, "Actually, Singapore's success came mostly from being the money laundering center for corrupt Indonesian businessmen and government officials. Indonesia has no money. So Singapore isn't doing well." That type of gossip can scathe in more ways than one. 5. Being a High-Maintenance Overachiever Such things do exist. One overzealous system administrator crammed his financial services company e-mail network with around 80-90,000 test messages per day to gauge system responsiveness. Clogged clients aside, the firm was automatically archiving hundreds of thousands of these test messages per year for an undetermined period of safe-keeping. 4. Mixing Business with, uh, Side Hobbies A firm decided to check up on a certain employee's odd messaging habits and discovered he was running a disc-jockey side business on the corporate server's tab. The music files he regularly e-mailed to would-be clients were getting archived and taking up loads of space for an indefinite period of time. 3. Watchdog Whistle-Blowing HP director Thomas Perkins unearthed a few scandals at HP, landing him priceless PR leverage over chairwoman Patricia Dunn -- until a nasty e-mail he sent was mysteriously appropriated and forwarded to the media. E-mail lives on a pretty public platform and for the watchdogs it's all fair game. Plus, everyone loves to read a good trash-talking letter. If you wouldn't say it in a roomful of people who may be holding your next paycheque in their volatile laps, maybe you shouldn't type it out at all. 2. Lost in Translation Deutsche Bank AG, the largest bank in Germany, lost favour in the Hertz Global Holdings Inc. IPO after one employee sent a series of unauthorized e-mails to almost 200 institutional accounts. Needless to say, Deutsche's underwriting position emptied fast. Especially where intercultural dynamics come into play, one guy's screw-up can cost a company a whole account. 1. "Thanks, But I No Longer Need the Job" Who in the folly of youth hasn't written a letter like that? In the media-rich web 2.0 world, you could be paying for it with more than just one bad impression. Yale Senior Aleksey Vayner's video resume was conveyed to YouTube from the very financial institution to which he was trying to apply. With the wide-open internet frontier of taunts and giggles reverberating through his monitor, Vayner threatened to sue everybody from UBS to YouTube. Sorry, but the damage is done, and it'll probably follow the guy around for awhile unless he finds a clever way to spin it. What can you even say to comfort a guy after a situation like that? Better luck in future endeavors? Marketing VP Robert Pease notes, “New regulations, increasing litigation and continued reliance on electronic communications have driven smart organizations to take a good look at their e-mail policies and governance." Among such new regulations are the updated e-discovery rules and the consequent mania for better control of records and relationships via e-mail. Pease adds, “We hope companies will make a New Year’s resolution to take practical steps toward better e-mail governance. Companies that don’t take proactive measures run the risk of showing up in the headlines in 2007.” In a world post-Enron, it's easier than ever to get nailed for one of a thousand unintentional mishaps that probably occur in a given enterprise. It pays to stay informed and pay close attention to employee habits. One can only hope companies look at practical e-mail governance not merely as resolution fodder but as a necessary tactic for modern survival.