Careful Communication

Summary

Continuing advances in technology enable people and organizations to communicate with ever greater speed. Unfortunately, the potential for miscommunication also is greater than ever. Miscommunication can occur in any message or medium — formal or informal, electronic or hard-copy — and can cause any number of legal problems for organizations and individual employees. Accordingly, an organization should train its employees to think defensively about the legal consequences of written and spoken communications.

For every work-related communication, employees should —

  • Know their audience. This means having a solid understanding of who will read their communications and tailoring them to these readers;
  • Understand the law. Being informed about the legal rights and responsibilities that affect the organization is a critical part of avoiding costly claims and lawsuits;
  • Recognize their limits. Exercising caution is critical when communicating about matters beyond their area of expertise or first-hand knowledge;
  • Watch what they say. For example, employees should not make statements to customers that idealize a product or service offered by the company, but should limit statements to suggestions and recommendations;
  • Manage closure. Whenever they resolve a complaint, employees should document the solution and explain how and when the problems were fixed. If a problem can't be fixed, employees should document their action plan and schedule to show the organization is not ignoring the problem;
  • Follow record-retention rules. Failure to retain records for their full retention periods can have dire consequences in a legal dispute;
  • Use attorney-client privilege with care. When faced with a high-risk liability situation, employees should consult with legal counsel about use of the privilege; and
  • Work on their writing. Encourage employees to seek constructive feedback on their writing from a trusted colleague, take a writing course, or ask legal counsel to review their writing before finalization.

© WeComply/Thomson Reuters

Key Resources

For your convenience, ACC has compiled the following key resources to assist you in your compliance efforts.

For more try searching ACC's online library for "Careful Communication"

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